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Editing before the draft

Ever catch yourself trying to edit your work before you've even finished your first draft?

The many rounds of revisions it takes to make something just right
Editing before the draft
Matteo Grand
September 6, 2023

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Have you ever caught yourself trying to make something perfect before you’ve even had a chance to put it down on the paper in front of you?

It happens to me all the time. I even caught myself in the act while writing this piece.

I’ve found that this tendency to jump to the editing stage before I’ve even completed my draft is a form of perfectionism – my need for things to be neatly packaged and presented in a certain way.

Before I’ve even started writing, designing, or creating, my brain is trying to pre-empt what the best version of this thing might be and how others are going to perceive it. 

This means that I’m effectively trying to side-step the creative process and arrive at the final destination. The inherent assumption operating is that I’m able to compute all of the possible combinations and permutations of what I’m trying to express, account for all of the serendipitous realisations I may have along the way, and spit out a masterpiece. All in my mind.

I can only guess this is driven from a fear that what I may observe in my draft might be so woeful and embarrassing that even glancing at it would plunge me into shameful doubt.

The reality is, however, that drafts serve a critical role in the creation of great work.

They offer you the opportunity to clear your thoughts and interact with them as an observer. Drafts provide the platform to try again from a different angle, and act as a frame for comparison. 

It might be that your first draft ends up being the best of the lot, but you couldn’t possibly know until you let yourself go through the motions.

When people in my team (myself included) come up against writer’s block, the first thing I ask is “are you trying to edit before you’ve even drafted?”

I’ve found this simple question changes one’s relationship with the work. It gives you permission to give things a go.

So, next time you feel blocked, ask yourself, “am I editing before the draft?”