Write. Edit. Write. Edit. Edit. Edit. Edit. Write.
Does this sound familiar? If it doesn’t then you’re probably from Mars, because most of us drive ourselves crazy with self-editing when we write.
And it’s not only when writing.
We self-edit when we’re walking. When you walk on gravel, you walk differently than when you walk on grass.
We self-edit when we’re talking. We choose different words and sentence structure, create different tones, and make different sounds depending on who we’re speaking to.
So self-editing is a very natural part of human behavior. There’s one difference when we self-edit as writers, though.
When we write, self-correction drives us bananas
Writing articles drives us crazy. Our natural tendency to self-edit gets out of hand. We can’t seem to put it on hold, even for a few minutes.
And the reason for that is our lack of competency.
Competency is a state of mind you reach when you’ve made enough mistakes that your brain can now move on.
That’s right. It’s not about getting things right in your brain — it’s about getting things wrong. The brain has to make hundreds, even thousands of mistakes — and overcome those mistakes — to be able to reach a level of competency.
Once it reaches competency, it self-edits on the fly
You can see this for yourself by spending time with a two-year-old.
Get the child to walk on grass, and then on gravel. He’ll struggle, and he may fall.
Get the child to say a sentence, and he’ll struggle to find the right words in the right order.
And yes, you may say that a child’s brain is not fully developed. But in fact, the brains of two-year-old children have more neural connections than at any other point in their lives. As they grow older, they lose many of those neural connections. Technically speaking at least, the child is in the best possible situation to learn — and learn quickly.
Yet they struggle
And that’s because the child hasn’t made enough mistakes yet. His brain is still working on finding and correcting them.
Once the brain makes enough mistakes — and corrects them — it now has a database of information that it can call upon at any time. Your brain has now reached its level of competency in that field, be it walking, talking or writing.
Your brain can now self-edit on the fly.
This is what great athletes do
And great writers.
And great singers.
And great speakers.
They’re still constantly self-editing, but they’ve reached such a high level of competency that they’ve moved into the realm of ‘fluency.’
Fluency is when self-editing happens so quickly that we can’t see it
It seems magical. And when things seem magical, we call it ‘talent.’
But what we call talent is just an advanced level of self-editing. Over and over and over again, until it’s second-nature.
Until your article writing looks like this:
Write. Write. Write. Edit. Write. Write. Write. Write. Edit.
P.S. I edited that article twice after drafting it in one sweep. My total writing time was less than 25 minutes from concept to final edit.
P.P.S. I started out writing fewer than 10 articles a year (if I was lucky). Each calendar year, I now write between 300-500 articles, write 2-3 books, and create huge amounts of original content for web sites. I’ve posted more than 15,000 posts in forums in the last five years. If you told me that I was going to do any of this back in the year 2002, I’d have called you a dreamer.
And yet, anyone can do it. Truly, anyone. It’s a matter of competency, then fluency.
Don’t forget to make thousands of mistakes along the way.