Terror Lurks in the Little Things

Little things can be terrifying, stressful, and panic-inducing. Not the miniature demons skittering across the ground or dolls and evil toddlers pitter-pattering over a creaky wood floor, but those tiny mistakes that haunt us.

Last fall, my son applied to colleges. Two accepted him, and he waited to hear from the third, before making a final decision. Stressful, right? When we learned that the final college posted decisions online, online we went, only to learn of a missing SAT score. His application hadn’t been processed, and the deadline to apply gone.

A tiny little thing that test score, one the other two schools received, leaving us with no idea of what went wrong. He worked hard to complete the application, making sure to fill every line, to check every box, and wrote an essay, but, instead of getting accepted or not on merit, he faced the idea of rejection because of one mistake.

As a writer, I face these tiny horrors all the time. That possible typo in a query. The terror of possibly spelling an agent’s name wrong. The real probability of sending the wrong number of pages or a too long synopsis. The fact that no matter how many times you read the submission guidelines, you mess up. And that little mistake can end the journey, kill the hope.

Those little things can remain, lurking like a dark spirit, and linger in the mind forever, waiting to jump out and be remembered. Hearts beat a bit faster and stress levels rise every time that mistake resurfaces.

Slip-ups happen, becoming moments that clasp us in a death grip. These tiny terrors hold us back and beat us down. I yell at myself constantly over all my mistakes.

We move on and, though we shouldn’t drag all those little things behind us like an anchor, we do.

The weight of those mistakes haunt us to make sure we learn.

And we try.


Cheers and nightmares,



Update: We talked to the school and, because my son sent the score the night he learned of the problem, the college has what they need and will process the application. Now we wait…again.



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