3 Ways Over-Editing is Killing Your Writing
Are you writing as much as you want?
Do you hesitate a bit — or even cringe — when it’s time to publish?
There are a million reasons why we’re afraid to share our work with the world.
I won’t cover all of them here.
What I will do is identify the most common problems we face. Sure, fear drives the train, but overediting is the path we follow to honor our fear.
The three problems we’ll cover are umbrellas under which most of our fears fall.
Once we identify the fear and the behavior that goes with it, we’ll learn how to do the opposite and share more of our writing with the world.
Are you ready to dive in?
The water may be cold, but you’ll adjust faster than you think. Let’s do this!
No Time Limit
Goals without deadlines are wishes.
You pay your power bill, your mortgage payment, and your insurance premium by a certain date. If you don’t, you lose what brings you comfort and security.
Fear of loss is a powerful motivator..
Some writers will edit forever before they publish. Consequently, they don’t publish much. Without fresh work coming out on a regular basis, readers learn not to expect anything new every week.
I know, because I’ve done this.
I get it. Life interferes. You get busy. Work is important because you need food on the table and a roof over your head. And if you don’t take care of your family, you’re irresponsible.
The trick is to make time for everything that matters in your life. Work. Play. Family. Creativity. When you don’t have balance, you won’t be happy.
If you spend too much time on one thing, other things won’t get done. So set a time limit. Give yourself an hour to write your draft, an hour to edit, and an hour for feedback (if you want it). Then let it go.
There’s nothing magical about having each part be an hour. It will take longer in the beginning, but as you get more experience the process will move faster.
If you edit each sentence as you write it, your writing will take ten times longer than if you just write an uninterrupted draft and edit it later.
You know your first swipe won’t be perfect. Just get it on paper. Then you can come back and shape it into something beautiful.
Think of your work as a canvas. If you draw a portrait and erase and redraw enough, after a while the paper will start to deteriorate. If you edit too long, you’ll polish all the edginess out of your words.
So stop before you turn your writing into trash.
Set a time limit for editing. And concentrate on three things:
- Spelling and grammar
- Filling in the information gaps
- Cutting out what doesn’t add power to your message
When the time runs out, publish and let it go.
You can do it again tomorrow.
You’re not saying anything new
It’s tempting to repeat the master’s wisdom.
Oh sure, you’re not plagiarizing. You’re adding your own spin. But if you’re only saying the same thing with different words, you won’t go as far as you will if you tell us what you really think.
Tim Denning doesn’t have a mailing list or a website. How dare he? Doesn’t he know that every expert under the sun says you should have those things?
He does have 80,000 followers here on Medium. And he has written for CNBC and Business Insider.
He’s doing something right, isn’t he?
Don’t be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. What’s more important is what works. Tell us your experience. Share your opinion. Tell us what you think. Leave the copying for others.
When you say something new, you’ll stand out in the crowd of trend chasers.
Don’t let fear hold you back.
Fear of Publishing
You might ruffle some feathers.
People might make nasty comments on your posts.
You won’t win over everyone in the world.
Okay. Can you live with that?
You may as well. Why? Because no one can please everyone. Nobody has all the answers to everyone’s problems. And one size definitely does not fit all.
Write and edit to your preset deadlines. Do the absolute best you can with the time you have. Then hit publish and move on.
That’s the key to productivity, growth, and maturity as a writer.
Sound too good to be true?
Life is messy. It always has been. Risk is everywhere, so take chances. Do your best to minimize your exposure and stick your neck out. If all goes well, nobody will slit your throat. If they do, bandage yourself up and move on.
A Caveat Before We Go
I’m not saying you shouldn’t edit.
I am saying you should be smart about it. Writing and editing use different parts of the brain. So write that draft, take a break, then come back and give it a second look.
And above all, don’t make perfection your goal.
That’s so important I’m gonna say it again.
Don’t make perfection your goal.
Focus on this instead:
- Simplicity — make it understandable
- Possibility — take away the blocks that keep people from succeeding
- Usability — provide steps they can take right away
You want your writing to matter. It will when it’s understandable, encouraging, and motivating.
Now go write and edit with purpose — and you’ll make the difference you were born to make.