Why Editing Your Writing Is A Waste Of Time (In The Beginning)

Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Ultimate Guide Table of Contents

Ahoy and happy Monday!

Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into the biggest problems all writers face stopping them from writing on the internet, building an audience, and monetizing their writing.

(And, of course, if you want to defeat these problems and master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)

This week, we want to help you overcome your editing perfectionism so you can start making real progress with your writing.

We’re going to go against the vasty majority of writing advice out there and say that 99% of the time editing is a waste of time.

Now, we’re not saying all editing is pointless. No, editing is crucial for some pieces of writing (for example, books). There are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of editors across the world who are vital in keeping writers on track, improving their work, and helping the reader enjoy their experience.

What we’re saying is editing is almost useless when you’re new to something as a digital writer.

You might have been writing for years, but it’s when you’re new to:

  • A topic
  • A platform
  • A medium

That editing becomes a waste of time.

When writers are doing something new they get nervous. Angsty. Obsessive. They want to make sure they “show up” the “proper” way in this new topic/platform/medium they’re trying. So much emphasis gets placed on editing, re-writing, and “perfectionism” because that’s how we’re taught to think about it in school and in English class. Writers will spend countless hours swapping out words and agonizing over adjectives.

And the result?

Well, it’s not better writing.

The key to starting out in any new topic, platform, or medium is to first optimize for volume.

Volume is the answer because volume gets your ideas in front of the reader.

Here are 3 reasons why you should be focusing on volume:

Reason 1: At the end of the day, you are in service to the reader.

Volume helps create data points.

For the first year of writing ANYTHING, any topic, any style, etc., editing is a waste of time because you don’t know what you’re editing for. So instead of editing, hit publish. When you hit publish, you gather data points you can iterate on. Without iteration, you can’t improve your writing and ideas (in this new topic, medium, or platform). Because what you think doesn’t matter. What matters is what the reader thinks.

Because in the beginning you don't know what the reader wants.

  • Is this valuable to the reader?
  • What is working and what isn’t working for the reader?
  • How can I make this idea even more valuable to the reader?

At this stage, your “editing” is about swapping out IDEAS based on what will be most helpful or compelling to the reader. And until you start getting lots of ideas in front of readers, you don’t actually know which ideas are most helpful or compelling to them—so you don’t know what to edit for.

Reason 2: Volume does not mean lower quality work. It’s just practice.

Volume never means lower-quality work.

Yes, you should read through your writing to check for obvious spelling and grammar errors (and if you want a dead-simple 3 step editing checklist, check out this thread from Dickie). But beyond that, do zero editing. Because this isn’t about putting out a “perfectly structured” piece. It’s about practicing.

  • Practicing different hook ideas
  • Practicing different formatting
  • Practicing different writing structures

So instead of trying to optimize for “perfect”, optimize for as much data gathering (or “tests”) as possible.

This data gathering will help you improve each time you put in another rep.

This leads us to the final point.

Reason 3: You are learning what works—consciously and unconsciously.

You’re building valuable pattern recognition by pushing out more volume rather than endlessly editing.

This doesn’t even have to be conscious. Your subconscious will be making a mental note of what’s working and what’s not. Your brain will be forming a picture it can use again and again, and as you continue to push the volume, your writing will continue to get better, you’ll have even more data points, and you’ll continue to build up your pattern recognition.

One final note:

When you pump out the volume, you:

  • Overcome your fears
  • Beat your uncertainties
  • And ultimately become a better writer

Let’s take Cole as an example.

His first book, Confessions Of A Teenage Gamer, took him four years to write. FOUR YEARS. He could have shortened his learning curve, tested his ideas, and received feedback from his potential readers if he’d been putting out small ideas over and over again. He held a faulty belief that there is something noble about not putting the ideas out and sitting in his room mulling over every sentence. Cole could’ve got his book out quicker (and it may have even better) if he’d optimized for volume and testing his ideas with feedback loops.

At the end of the day, editing in the beginning is a service to yourself as the writer. It’s about your ego. Not about the reader. And it’s the reader that matters.

That's it for today!

Chat next week!

–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole

Enjoyed this edition? Click here to share it on Twitter!

You might also like...