Write First…Edit Later

I promised to share with you the biggest mistake new writers make today.  It’s the mistake which turns a short writing process into a full day drudgery.  And it’s also a problem which isn’t limited only to new writers.  Experienced writers go through periods of time where it weighs them down.

I’m talking about editing at the same time you’re writing. If you try to edit while you’re doing your first rough draft of any article, white paper, or book, you’re going to slow down the whole process to a snail’s pace.  Writing and editing are a completely separate process, and you have to treat them as such.

When you sit down to write, you must write.  Don’t worry about being perfect.  Don’t worry about making mistakes.  Just do it.  Write.  You’ll do your editing later in the process.  You might end up cutting out several paragraphs from the beginning of your writing when you get to editing.  It doesn’t matter.  In fact, when I’m training people on doing copywriting, it’s normal for us to cut out the first few paragraphs or even their whole first page.  It’s almost as if they’re going through a warm-up process in getting started.

So sit down and write.  That’s the key.  Don’t go back and edit.  Don’t sit there and contemplate what you’ll say next.  The more you can just write or type your thoughts out as they come to you, the easier the whole project will be.  Don’t allow yourself to rethink what you wrote at this point.  Don’t stop to go back and make changes yet.  Just write it until it’s finished.

Once you’re finished, now you can take a break from it for a while. Give yourself some time off.  Relax and do something else to occupy your mind.  My best ideas have almost always come to me while i was doing something other than working (playing a game, seeing a movie, taking a shower, etc.).

Have you ever experienced a conversation with someone where you don’t seem to get your point across?  Of course you have. In most cases the perfect words come to you later on that day and you just wish you had said such-and-such.  Writing is your opportunity to do this.  You write as if you’re in a private conversation with someone.  Then you take a break from writing and your subconcious gets to work on the project.  Now you get the opportunity to go back in and reword your piece.  You can’t take back words that come out of your mouth, but you can sure edit your writing before it’s published. 

The best results occur for me when I take a day between the writing and the editing process.  When I come back to my article I’m refreshed and often have a new perspective on it. It’s easy to go through and make the first several changes from things that came to mind in the past day.  I then read it outloud.  Someone else reads it outloud to me.  Anywhere that it just doesn’t sound right is modified and edited.  In a future postings, I’ll explain more about the overall editing process.

The one key principle here is that you must separate writing from editing.  It’s that tendency in us to perfect something that holds you back in writing.  It’s also the fear of making a mistake.  What if you don’t write it correctly?  What if it doesn’t sound right?  Public speaking is the number one fear of the average person.  They’re afraid they may appear foolish in front of an audience.  This same fear invades our writing at times. 

The simple solution to it is to tell yourself you will edit it before it goes out.  What you write today is not what will be published.  It is called a rough draft because it’s rough and needs some polishing.  You have to get over your fear and get started.  Just do it and edit it later.

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