Q&A: Daily Revisions or Forge Ahead?

Q: I am finding that when I sit down each day to continue my writing, I read everything I’ve written so far in order to get back into the flow. When I do this I have the tendency to hate something I loved a few days ago, so I want to go back and change it – making the whole process very slow, and sometimes discouraging. Is it just me, or is this a common problem?

— Lawrence Bell

A: It’s definitely not you, Lawrence. This is a common problem among writers and presenters in all disciplines.

There’s nothing wrong with rereading what you’ve done already – and even editing and rewriting the parts you can improve – PROVIDED you’re still making progress.

If you’re stuck or discouraged, it’s possible that you “hate” what you liked before because you’re subconsciously avoiding moving forward and finishing the draft. Those voices that keep telling you how awful your writing is are simply trying to block you from some deeper fear — of judgment, of change, of failure, of success, or of facing a new rewrite.

If this is the case, take a different approach: reread what ONLY what you wrote over the last day or two, just to get back in the flow. You can even mark places or make short notes any time you encounter something you think could be better. But DO NOT REWRITE anything until the first draft of your script or speech or article is done.

This means your draft will be finished more quickly; you’ll have overcome a big hurdle; and from now on whatever you do will be rewriting – no more facing the blank page.

Like all questions about the writing process, there is no one right answer. You’ve got to play around until you find the combination that is right for you. The only criteria for defining your own processes are: 1) Are your stories moving forward? and 2) Are you having fun writing?

When the answer is yes to both, you’re doing fine.

– Michael