Take turns

Do you have trouble getting off the starting block when you write? See if this sounds familiar: Before you’ve finished three sentences, you find yourself going back to the beginning to re-phrase something. Then after a few more sentences you stop to look up a word you may not have spelled right. Then you go back to the first sentence again because you think the original phrasing might have been better.

Before long, you feel bogged down. You aren’t getting very far, it seems to be taking forever, and you aren’t happy with the little bit that you’ve managed to write. Your concentration has taken a beating too.

My advice: Write first, edit later.

Earlier this month I wrote about how writing and reporting are two different jobs. Well, writing and editing are also two different jobs. When you try to do both at the same time, you usually end up doing both poorly.

Yes, you want to get everything right, but it doesn’t have to be polished right away.

So first, you write. Get the ideas down. Lay out the facts. Make sure you are sticking to your main points. Did you just type a cliché? Never mind. Keep going. You aren’t sure how to spell a word? Spell it the best you can and keep writing. Once you silence the nitpicky editor’s voice in your head, you’ll build up some good writing momentum.

After you have it all down, you can mentally shift gears and go back to the beginning. Now you can give free rein to the nitpicky editor inside you. You can think about style without worrying about content. You can check the dictionary. You can smooth out the clunky phrases.

Once your inner writer and inner editor learn to take turns, you’ll feel a lot better when you sit down in front of the keyboard.

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