by Ashley Lister
OK. This is the first time I’ve said this in more than a year of blogging here, but I don’t think I can do this topic. It’s not that I don’t understand the concept of regret. I appreciate we’re looking at a negative assessment following the repercussions of a previous decision. And it’s not that there haven’t been (many) times in my life when I’ve made the wrong decision. But I don’t think I have any genuine regrets. I can’t see the point in brooding on what can’t be changed.
That said, because I don’t like to give up so easily, I’ve compiled below a list of five things I ought to regret.
1) I regret annoying one particular author with a scathing book review. Please note: I don’t regret writing the review. The book (in my opinion) was crap and I was obliged to say so in observance of the reviewer’s code of providing an honest review. But I regret annoying the author – particularly as the hate mail they sent through was unpleasant and puerile.
2) I regret making my email address so easy to find, allowing a disgruntled author to send me hate mail on receipt of a scathing book review.
3) I regret opening the email I received from a disgruntled author. Like the rest of the planet’s mortal population: I only have a dwindling number of minutes left to survive before merciful death releases me from the purgatory of existence. The fact that I wasted three of those dwindling minutes reading the misspelt rantings of a delusional hack is a serious cause for my genuine and heartfelt regret. It’s possibly the only genuine regret in this whole list.
4) I regret smirking at the typos in that email, which came from someone who insisted they have an ability to write properly. Admittedly, it’s rare that irony can be so amusing, but I think my smirking was somewhat childish.
5) I regret that my editor didn’t follow the advice of the disgruntled author, which suggested they should sack me and start employing someone competent.
But, as I said before, I don’t do the regret thing very well. If I started regretting decisions, I’d regret reading the damned book in the first place, or I’d regret agreeing to be a reviewer, or even deciding to be a writer.
To my mind regret is a redundant, reflective practice: so close to the childishness of wishing it seems indulgent for an adult. It would be like wishing for everyone to enjoy the book you’ve written – regardless of your absence of talent or the book’s abysmal quality. And, as the saying goes: wish in one hand, shit in the other, and see which one fills up first.