“I’m a rewriter. That’s the part I like best…once I have a pile of paper to work with, it’s like having the pieces of a puzzle. I just have to put the pieces together to make a picture.”
Judy Blume, American author, 1938-
Judy Blume spoke the obvious: A writer has to write a draft before revising it. In my technical writing webinars, I recommend a writing process that suggests this chronology:
- Get feedback
- Edit and proofread
The Text Doctor’s writing process prescription
“Just write,” I urge my engineers in my online writing webinars. “Don’t wait for the ‘right time’ when you are ‘in the mood’ or have all the information that you need at hand. That ‘right time’ is an illusion. Instead, set a time to write your draft and then honor that time commitment. Write more than you think you’ll need. If you are lucky, you’ll get into a flow and your writing will come automagically. Will there be chaff in that draft? You betcha. Trust your reviewers to find your weaknesses, your wordiness, your worst thoughts. Listen to them and accept their feedback if you can.
“You’ll end up with a lot of good text to revise. Does it take time? You betcha. But ask any polished author and they’ll agree—they hate to write but they like to have written. And lots of what they write lands in the trash (or wherever discarded pixels go). Just keep revising and revising and finally, you’ll have something that you like or (hopefully) your boss and colleagues like. And then you’ll move on to your next required document. Just write it, then get feedback, and then revise it based on that feedback.
“Is it fun? No. Is it necessary? Yes. Write. Get feedback. Revise. Repeat.
“Got it? Good. Just do it.”
(Note: Many Internet references to the writing process recommend four steps only, omitting “Getting feedback.” I see feedback as an essential part of anyone’s writing process. Without good feedback, you never see your writing through your reader’s eyes. Feedback is a gift–don’t cheat yourself by turning down a gift.)