Sunday, July 22, 2012

Write, THEN edit

Pay attention to this one: Do not edit while you are writing. Editing while in the middle of a sentence, or even in the middle of a paragraph is awful, evil, heinous, that which scares little children in the night, perhaps more terrifying even than the Chupacabra. Please, for the love of all things decent, do not edit until you are done with writing. Pay attention to this one tip, this one insistence, and you will find that you will be far more productive during your writing sessions.

I actually often do not edit or spell check at all until I am well into an article, and sometimes not until near the end. I will even leave things unedited while working with colleagues in Google docs; now that keeps you humble!


  1. I needed to read this. As I write my dissertation I find it is a challenge for me not to line edit because I feel like it's only crap spewing on the page. There is also the fear of my dissertation advisors comments, which sometimes make me feel my writing is inadequate. Thanks for this tidbit.

  2. Hi Regina,

    Thanks for being the first person to comment on my new blog. Here is another thought; It is supposed to be crap! That is the purpose of a first draft! In her book on creative writing, "Bird by Bird," Anne Lamott refers to them as "shitty first drafts.

    Also, remember two things about your dissertation. The dissertation is the start of our academic career, not the end. If you do your job and grow and change throughout the years, you will outgrown it. That is a good thing. The second thing, the best dissertation is a completed one. As stated, for most of us, it is not our "great work."

    I am sure you have heard these before; nothing new, but helpful to keep in mind.

    Hope you have a productive day and week writing.


  3. I'm with Regina--starting up my dissertation. I too am guilty of editing while drafting. For me it's not so much spelling or grammar, but finding the "right" word to use. Or finding a new word than the one I've used previously so as not to sound repetitive. It does slow me down, but it's hard to move forward until I feel satisfied that I have captured the idea I want to convey. Is that really so heinous? Do I absolutely have to break this habit or couldn't we chalk it up to individual difference? Convince me.
    And thanks for the great tips. I'll certainly be reading in the days to come!

  4. Hi Amy,

    I will respond with a new blog post within the next two days, ok? I am not sure if I will be able to convince you, but perhaps I can provide a bit more rationale. However, for now, let me ask what the harm would be if you tried it for a month? You can always go back to your old ways, no? If if works for you, then you developed a new skill and are working faster. If it does not work for you, then you get to know that it does not, and can "put that to rest." I am a word choice nut, but believe that those word choice issues should come once you hare "spent" and just feel like you cannot write anymore. (so, in a sense, a different mode of writing).

    Watch for the response (although, looks like I did respond here after all, a bit).


    1. You're so right. What do I have to lose? I'll give it a shot and let you know.

  5. Rich is right! He taught me this trick and it has changed the entire way I write now!

  6. Alissa,

    So, that means you are writing 20 articles a year instead of ten? :)

  7. First off, I love the blog and thank you for the great posts!

    I also needed to read this as I am also starting to write my dissertation (cultural anthropology). I have progressively gotten worse with my "edit as i type" style throughout grad school to the point of near paralysis. What I have decided to try is writing only Monday-Thursday when I have only a hour or two a day for writing because of my teaching schedule. Fridays (no classes) will be my "edit" day to go back over what I've written that week.

    I'm hoping that will get more words flowing out of my head and onto the paper while still satisfying my need to edit by knowing I have Friday's to look forward to for fixing!

  8. Hi Colin,

    Thanks for reading the blog, and I am glad you are enjoying it! Good luck on the dissertation- and "exciting" time :). I like the approach you have laid out for yourself- let me know how it goes!