It Prompts to Do Better Going Forward
I’ve heard actors and musicians say they don’t care to look at their own performances because they cringe at how they did something they should have done differently. For writers, the printed first edition can yield a similar emotion. There is much we’d change, rephrase, or cut. Now it’s set, and we can’t.
Life is like that. Once something has passed, regret can take over about the many things that we could’ve and maybe should’ve, and now we can’t do over.
I know people who are raked with regrets. It’s a useless loop that serves to paralyze. The functional among us “let it go,” which usually means we try to forget and move on.
But forgetting, while serving the purpose of getting the wheels to move, isn’t the best way. For my own process, there were times I wished I could be as good at forgetting as many people I have known. There’s at least one typo in each of my published books that gnaws on me, and I can’t do a thing about it. There are chapters in my life I would never “do” the same way.
I found a way to mentally handle these sorts of cant’-fix ‘em. I am not a Catholic, but I borrowed it from the Catholic confession, when at the end the priest says, “Now go and sin no more.” This echoes Jesus’ saying. (John 8, 11) The brilliance of confession is not the telling, or the penance. It’s an awareness combined with learning from mistakes and resolving to not repeat.
Nothing wasted— if we learn from it.
I will look at my performance. I will stare at these typos and awkward phrasings. I will remember where I dropped the ball. Then I will resolve to pay attention and to try not to repeat. Of course, I will repeat. But maybe not the same mistakes or sins, and maybe I will catch them earlier when I can fix something. It’s a process, and a mighty beneficial one.
In this way, regret becomes useful.