Why Re-Writing is a Mistake


There is an ancient saying that goes like this…

You can’t step into the same river twice.

That’s because the river has changed.

And you’ve changed.

And similarly when you try to re-write an article, you’re no longer the person you were.

Doesn’t that sound bizarre?
If you know me even slightly well, you’ve probably heard of my “article graveyard”. Yup, that’s where a lot of my articles go to die.

At first, I was pretty hopeless at writing articles, labouring over each one for a day, sometimes two.

And if I didn’t manage to finish the article, I figured it would end up in the article writing graveyard.

But why not bring all those great ideas up from the “dead”?
That’s because in every single situation you’ll find it takes a lot more time to re-write or re-fashion an article, than to write a fresh one.

The temptation is very strong, of course. I mean there you are, with an article that’s almost four-fifths done.

What could go wrong?

You’ve changed, that’s what’s wrong
The article—even if written a few days ago—was written by an earlier version of you. You were all fired up, and your mindset was completely different.

If you’d finished off that article, you’d have been fine.

But today, you’re a completely different person stepping into a new river. And if you try to get that old feeling back, you’re more than likely to fail.

So why is failure so rampant in re-writes?
You know this feeling well, don’t you? Let’s say you started on a project. Then you were called away for some reason.

Later you decide to go back to where you left off. And it takes ages just to figure out what you’d done, let alone restart the process.

When writing, you’d have to read the article once or twice, just to get back to that original mood.

Of course, that mood has vanished into the great yonder
And what you’re left with is are parts of your article, that you somehow have to reassemble.

And some of us succeed.

We battle our way through the article, and we somehow manage to rewrite it.

But get an experienced eye to audit the article, and as good as it looks, you can see the patchwork. That patchwork is the break in the mood—that you simply can’t re-capture.

So are we to let “sleeping articles” lie?
Not necessarily. If you’ve had a good idea and you feel like tackling the topic again, here’s what you should do.

Outline the article anew—with renewed vigour (and mood). Then once you’re ready to go, you may find you’re still keen to see what you covered the last time around.

Sometimes you may find you had a great opening. Or maybe you had some very important points that you’ve forgotten since. Well, go ahead, add them to your outline.

While rewriting an article is a pain, reworking an outline isn’t quite as painful
You may still struggle a bit, but an outline is still like a blue-print. You can work it around without too much of a hassle. But if you try to go right back into the original article, you’ll run into a chunk of unwanted trouble.

You’ll be desperately trying to capture something that has passed.
The river has changed.

You’ve changed.

It’s time to move on.


Ann Andrews CSP specialises in working with high performing teams and showing managers how to deal with poor performance.

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