Any Broadway fans or people who were really bored on Sunday night might remember that in the televised broadcast of the Tony Awards, when the time to announce the Best Actress in A Play, the camera/announcer accidentally swapped the names of leading ladies of Mary Stuart, Harriet Walters (Elizabeth) and Janet McTeer (Mary Stuart) when the camera focused on each of the women.
The problem is, I reviewed Mary Stuart (for popmatters.com) and have an incredible amount of self-doubt. At first I couldn’t breath. Then I shouted: “Oh my god. No! My life is over! I switched their names! I wrote an entire review and got their names wrong.”
“You never would have done that,” my friends assured me.
“But I would! I totally would. I did. I know I did. I remember.”
I was paralyzed. When I stopped being frozen in panic, I sprinted to my host’s laptop and began frantically searching for my review. But before I could call it up, the beautiful and talented Marcia Gay Harden came on and graciously informed the crowd that the announcer and camera man, not I, had made the terrible error.
I always really liked Marcia Gay Harden. I even thought she was great in Mona Lisa Smile. But at that moment, I wanted to marry her and have her all babies…However that would work….I don’t know.
Regardless, one thing to be learned from this situation is that no matter how many times you rehearse the Tonys, you can still mess up. (I’ve heard that they had 3 practice runs.) To that end, my host assured me that it was way more embarrassing for those people than it would have been for me. But I still felt a little strange that I had so little faith in my own work that I actually believed I would have done something like that. I’d written the review with playbill in hand–how stupid did I really think I was? And while in some situations doubt is useful (like if you’re trying to pretend Secretariat won’t win the Triple Crown so that betting is more exciting for the last race.) But living on a day to day basis with potent doubt about your ability to do simple tasks is not helping anybody’s odds.
Still, all writers and editors make mistakes. And while sometimes mistakes just don’t get caught, the more we make a habit of going through a systematic, pragmatic, checklist of proofreading and fact checking, the less likely we are to make them, thus less likely to doubt our own work. And the less we doubt, the less anxious we’ll get next time we have to something check. Reducing anxiety is good because if we’re already flustered, we’ll never catch obvious mistakes.
Of course, I personally have anxiety attacks every time I send an email, because I imagine that I have made an error, accidentally forwarded something embarrassing, or written something terrible about the person I’m emailing and accidentally included it , or am CCing the wrong person…the list goes on, and it indicates that I have probably far to travel to the Land of No Doubt. (no pun…)
But I haven’t taken a vacation in a while, so it’s probably about time to make the journey. Plus, Next To Normal collected a number of awards, so even if I never achieve faith and serentity, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that total and complete neurosis is the new black.