Decouple writing from publishing
(3/30 of 30 daily writing pieces)
Sometimes, I find it easy to write and publish. And when I consider the reasons for the ease, it’s almost always the case that the topic has been something that I’ve spent lots of waking hours thinking. By the time, I do get pen to paper — or fingers to the keyboard — the words just flow.
When there’s a topic I have to write on, but I don’t have much prior thoughts, that’s when I get into blocks. I jump straight to the act of writing, hoping the words would just come. But no.
The words become excruciatingly hard to come out of me.
I tweak after I publish. Silly me
One thing I notice when I published the past 2 posts, has been that right after I hit the Publish button, I went back and tweaked a few sentences here and there.
That’s not optimal. As it does mean the email version will differ from the web version. Not that it matters too much as I have zero subscribers excluding myself.
If I were to look at my own situation like a 3rd person, I would take in both observations and conclude that it’s probably wiser to separate the writing from the publishing.
Separating the writing from the publishing would entail three separate phases with their own different objectives. Ideally, these three phases are themselves delimited by periods of not writing.
Phase 1: Pour everything. Be drunk
Regardless I have any prior thoughts, my first writing is simply to brain dump whatever thoughts I have onto the draft. To hell with grammar, structure, logic, spelling, etc. Just get it out. Get it all out. There’s not even any need for complete sentences here. As the saying goes, “Write drunk. Edit sober.”
The keyword for this phase is the word, drunk. What I’m trying to do is to loosen up and quiet down the critic part of the brain. Let the free association flow. No self-censor and no judgement. Just write and write and write and write. Until I don’t feel like writing further.
Phase 3: Tweak and Publish
I know it’s weird that I’m writing Phase 3 right after I described Phase 1. Bear with me, there’s a method to my madness. Think of Phase 1 and Phase 3 as the extreme opposites of each other. If Phase 1 is about lots and lots of writing with no aim, Phase 3 is all about the singular act of publishing the final piece. Well, either decide to publish or decide never let the piece see the light of day.
Which is why there should be zero writing at this stage as well. In fact, I would even go as far to say very little editing should be here as well. There are tweaks, yes. However, this is not the phase where heavy editing and organizing should be done. This is the final pass-through. Your head should be clear and your ego detached.
That way, you can reserve the best judgement on whether this piece is worthy of the Publish button.
Phase 2: Edit Sober
Which leaves us with everything else associated with writing and editing to the middle phase. In this phase, you need to be calculating. You still have the lingering memories of the passion from Phase 1. Yet, with some time passed since Phase 1, you now have (some) detachment to edit with sufficient ruthlessness. You may have to rewrite a lot based on what you previously wrote in Phase 1. You may have to split some of Phase 1 writing into multiple drafts used for future pieces. There’s no one definition for this phase, other than this feels like work.
Not the toil we have come to associate with the dreary kind of work. This feels like productive work. The kind of work you do to make yourself a better person. The kind of work when after you’re done, you’re very very glad that you did it. Like after a proper gym session.
It’s not necessarily true that once you’re done with this phase, you will progress to Phase 3. In Phase 2, we allow judgement back into the picture. So there’s also the possibility that your judgement says you have to junk the whole thing. Don’t be afraid of that. In writing, we need to learn to trust our self. Intuition, passion, judgement, and even that annoying inner critic are various aspects of our self.
I know I did a lot of self-loathing when I overly leaned into one side at the expense of another. Sometimes, things get done still. For long-term mental health, I would argue it’s never worth it.
FYI: I didn’t follow what I said here
Just to be completely upfront, I did not follow what I said here for this piece. I prefer to maintain my streak more than following exactly that method.
What I intend to do is to follow this for the future essays. Which does mean the first few tries of this method may be quite laborious. I will check in again and update how this method has worked out for me.
Update you again..