Learning to balance editing and publishing

At this point in my writing career, one of my biggest issues is never thinking my pieces are good enough to publish.

A lot of it comes down to a balance that I struggle with. I don’t want to churn out under-edited pieces that look sloppy and miss out on potentially significant rewrites. But at the same time, I don’t want to sit there and edit indefinitely. 

When it comes to over-editing, the reason not to is best described by diminishing returns. Diminishing returns is the concept that the greatest gains are made at the beginning with a progress curve that quickly flattens and continues to flatten. 

As you can see, the most efficient gains are at the beginning and slow over time. For example, from days 1-5, you can go from beginner to intermediate. Significant progress in a short amount of time.

However, the longer you go, the more time any additional progress takes. You can expect seemingly very little to change from days 250-255 – no discernible improvement in your abilities. That’s not to say that you’re no longer improving; It just takes more time. Like a river eroding rock. Any individual passage of water is insignificant, but with the accumulation of millions of repetitions, the impossible can happen. Through time, consistency, and repetition, water can carve out stone.

My other major problem area is the editing process. Editing, cuts, and fluff pruning. Specifically, I don’t think I’m great about cutting sub-par sections or paragraphs. I feel like, “well I’ve already written it, might as well see what people think.” As someone was hesitant to publish any sort of writing my entire life, it took me a while to become comfortable publishing pieces even if they aren’t ‘perfect’. However, the next step for me is to dial it back a bit and learn how to be more objective about my editing process. My goal is to write useful pieces with minimal fluff.

It’s difficult trying to synthesize different sets of rules and guidelines to become a better writer. And surely if I take them too seriously, I’ll get nothing done at all. I just have to remind myself that it takes time and experimentation. Some things will work, some won’t. As long as I learn from my experiences, I can consider it time well spent.

“Precision and correctness are like opposing forces. It’s easy to satisfy one if you ignore the other.” -Paul Graham

My spin is: perfection and experimentation are like opposing forces. It’s easy to satisfy one if you ignore the other.

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4 comments

  1. It also depends where you are going to be sending your words and how long your writing is. For your blog or a publisher? 700 words or 70,000? But as you say, as long as you learn as you go and you can see improvement, than the editing process is working 🙂

    1. Those are great points. So far they’re really only for my blog so I’m working on not taking it too seriously. Easier said than done though!

      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Thanks!

  2. I, too, tend to be ‘meh’ with my editing for my blog articles. As much as I tout the romance of always rewriting, I have on many occasions published actual first drafts just to see how it goes, and surprisingly, some performed much better than the ones I spent entire weeks researching, formatting, and editing.

    It’s a weird thing, this. Anyway, thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey Stuart! You’re welcome.

      And to your point – it’s funny how that works. I’m happy that my piece resonated with you.

      And thank you for sharing!

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