I had to eat crow last week.  At least it was nicely seasoned.

 Photo courtesy Pixabay. Photo courtesy Pixabay.

You know the saying “Be careful the words you use because someday you may have to eat them?”

I learned that lesson recently.

As a fledgling writer, I’ve discovered that I’m more protective of my written words than I am with other aspects of my life. I haven’t always stood up for myself, but I’ve easily stood up for my writing.

Once I’ve sent an essay out into the world, I’m determined to protect its integrity.

Maybe it’s because I think deeply about how to express myself in writing, whereas in real life and real time, I may have to react in the spur of the moment, which is not my best moment.

And maybe it’s because, in person, I can influence someone’s impression of me. But knowing that my written word is the only way a reader knows me, I chose those words carefully.

I’ve had dozens of essays accepted in publications with the understanding that the editors may make minor changes to my work. Until recently, I’ve never had a problem with that.

Then I submitted what was going to be my first paid piece. It was a great learning experience because the editor asked me tough, thought-provoking questions about my draft which challenged me to make it better. We had several back-and-forths on the editing. On the last pass, I indicated that I was not comfortable with one specific change. It misrepresented a very sensitive topic that I labored over to word delicately.

I didn’t hear back from him. So I thought.

After several days, I figured the piece was still in process but, curious, I clicked on the publication website. There was my essay. Without my final edits. I knew that readers would make assumptions about me that were inaccurate. It was reputation-damaging. I was irate.

Additionally, most editors will send you a link to your piece as soon as it goes live. I didn’t get one. So I thought.

Immediately, I sent an email to the editor firmly stating my objections and my disappointment.

I opened with this:

I’m disappointed that you didn’t see my edits and comments on Google docs and in the email below before this went out yesterday. 

Then I gave the examples and stated my case. And ended with this:

I may choose not to do any promotion to my followers or social media, to minimize the damage. It’s a shame.

Again, I’m very disappointed and discouraged.

I was so close to adding “and pissed” to that last sentence, but I didn’t. Nor did I add “thanks” or “if it’s not too much trouble” or “in my opinion” or any of those agreeable phrases that I tend to rely upon.

Then, because I was so upset, I started an essay for another publication to air my grievances. But I didn’t finish it. I decided to wait until I heard back from the editor, which I did quickly.

As its turns out, the whole thing was my screw-up. The editor did send the final edits several days earlier, and when he didn’t hear back from me, he assumed I was good with the piece. I discovered that his email had gone to my Gmail account, one that I use only for document editing, one that he and I had used.

I hadn’t check that account and so I didn’t reply. My bad.

With a short explanation of what happened, I apologized to the editor who agreed with my final edits and quickly made the changes. It was resolved amicably.

I wonder, if I had not chosen my words carefully, would that still be the case?

Although I hated that I had to eat crow, I was incredibly relieved that I had seasoned my words carefully because they didn’t taste so bad. And through it all, I was proud of the way I stood up for myself.

These are the lessons I learned:

  • Stand up for yourself.
  • Season your words carefully.
  • Check all your email accounts daily.


  • Karen DeBonis

    Karen DeBonis writes about motherhood, people-pleasing, and personal growth, the entangled mix told in her memoir "Growth: A Mother, Her Son, and the Brain Tumor They Survived" forthcoming in spring 2023. Subscribe today to receive Chapter 1: A Reckoning.

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No Comments

  1. lenlaura@aol.com on September 15, 2017 at 2:46 PM

    Been there. You have good reason to stand up for your words!

    • kaydee82@earthlink.net on September 15, 2017 at 5:29 PM

      Yeah – we’ve all been there, and it’s not a good feeling. And thanks for your comment and compliment, Laura!

  2. psrampolla@gmail.com on September 17, 2017 at 1:53 AM

    How hard it is when we think we have not been heard. I am glad this worked out well for you and your editor. I am glad that you stood up for yourself and that your editor was able to accept your apology. Would that all disagreements could end so well.

    • kaydee82@earthlink.net on September 17, 2017 at 10:35 AM

      Thank you, Pat. Yes, sadly, life doesn’t always work out so well. All the more reason to "crow" about the times it does!

  3. dsramp@gmail.com on September 20, 2017 at 7:52 PM

    Been there myself. Here’s a lesson I’ve learned from the times I’ve made an ass of myself. I’ve survived and thrived anyway. In the future I can be more bold about what I say and do, because I know that if I screw up I’ll still survive.

    • kaydee82@earthlink.net on September 21, 2017 at 1:33 PM

      You’re so right, Don. Most verbal mistakes won’t kill us, and, as the saying goes, if they don’t kill us, they may make us stronger.

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