The smug meme in Silicon Valley is that failure is good. That's because it gets our attention and, unless we are nuts, we will extract lessons we must learn and, well, learn them pronto. However, the insight about whatever we derive from failure or even a mistake comes at a high emotional cost. Not being as smart about that whatever as we thought we were can cause a heavy hit of pain.
For the second time in my career I made the same mistake. The Greek Chorus in Silicon Valley would chant the question as to why I hadn't learned the first time around. The source of the error was confusing what I do as a ghostwriter with what I do as an editor. In ghostwriting, most clients welcome input which will enhance the marketability of their book, opinion-editorial, article, blog post, commentary on Facebook, keynote address and so on.
In editing, most clients want as much of their original content preserved. That's why before beginning an assignment we ask about heavy or light editing. The first time I screwed that up by not asking was on a "Preface" to a book I was ghostwriting for a public affairs executive. The author for the Preface was a Generation Xer, just starting out in her career. I heavily edited. She was not pleased. We returned to her version, of course. But the professional damage had been done. She went on to a plum job which could have used my freelance services. No need to say, she didn't contact me.
Just this week - maybe the Snows of '14 unhinged me - I made the same sort of mistake. A new client sent me a rush job. It was an article for publication to edit. I over-edited. She called me on it. I fully admitted I was at fault. I offered make-goods. Time will tell if there is any future in this.
The good news, in Silicon Valley's ethos of learning from error, is that I really have got it. I will never superimpose what we do in ghostwriting to editing. Since I intend to work about 10 or 15 years more, I will have plenty of time to apply this insight.
Meanwhile the pain sits in my soul like a mortal sin. To obtain forgiveness from the Universe, I might drive to the Atlantic Ocean in Westerly, Rhode Island, watch and listen to the waves and embrace how I am just a part of a very imperfect, unpredictable work.