Writing Productivity Tip #8: Balance Patience and Urgency
The hardest part of the revision process is knowing when you’re done. Patience is your friend, to a point.
If a deadline looms, do what you can quickly and let it go. But when you have time, you must decide: how long do you keep revising?
Brilliance, humor, pithy observations – much of this develops in revision. It takes time and patience to coax your writing into the best version of itself. Revise, wait a bit, then revise again.
For lengthy or critical pieces, consider making at least three revision passes.
- In the first pass, search out your known quirks and replace or rework them as needed. (See the post Work the Quirks.) Also fix any issues intentionally left unresolved in the first draft. I flag areas during the drafting process to correct in revision.
- Having fixed the known problems, read through the draft again for flow and clarity. Do you need to reword to to help the reader? (See the post Revision is all about the reader.)
- Read through once again looking for typos, punctuation and spelling issues, or any problems you’ve introduced in the previous revision cycles.
In the ideal world, you let the draft sit for some time between each pass, so you can approach it with fresh eyes.
Revision is a Game of Patience
The challenge of revision is having the patience to go through the writing repeatedly, with time between passes. You may be eager to get the work out into the world, or anxious to be done with it.
A longer piece of writing, like a book or a lengthy report might require additional passes between steps two and three above. For example:
- You might read through looking for weak verbs or boring adjectives, to make better word choices.
- Show the draft to readers or editors and integrate their suggestions.
- Do another pass searching for repetitive words.
Each pass takes time and effort.
Eventually, you reach a point of diminishing returns. You can always improve your prose, but the cost of delay may outweigh the benefits.
At some point, impatience must win the battle. Publish. If your writing never sees the light of day, no one else will benefit from your work.
When exactly is that point? There’s no right answer, and it varies with every project. Balancing patience and impatience isn’t easy.
Image: Green Chameleon on Stocksnap.io.