How to transform a draft into a final article by mental distancing

A human face, draft drawing by Massimo Curatella

This started as a private draft. And then, it became an article. Read the story behind it.

My problem with writing comes from the immediate satisfaction I get after I have written. It’s such a powerful self-therapy tool that I don’t care about the next step. Seen as a way to dump my brain and to relieve myself from the confusion of too many thoughts is a magnificent tool. But when I take that amorphous sequence of words and I consider its publication I feel dubious and doubtful. I need to focus more on the whole workflow of publishing, in which writing spontaneously is just the first step. Important but insufficient to create a readable article.

Publishing is exciting and liberating. If I write about thoughts concerning me or agitating me, I can’t wait to forget about them. I want, not only to write them down, but to put them in a form which can be shared, as soon as possible with as little work as possible. And this is the limitation of my current workflow. I get nauseated by my drafts so bad that I cannot stand revising, reviewing and editing them. Actually I don’t like to review any of my writings. I find it boring and annoying. Since I’ve been writing that, I feel I have to go through the same emotional process I went through when I wrote it in the first place. It’s fatiguing and painful. I feel the stress of redoing the thinking process once again after I’ve felt so liberated by having completed it. That is why reading once again the same internal dialogue is exhausting.

One possible solution is to write a draft, as quickly as possible, and as exhaustively as possible and then to leave it rest for some days. To take a distance not only from the outcome but also from the thinking process. After enough mental distancing I should be able to get back in that place in my mind with, maybe, less intense emotions and feelings about the topic. The goal here is to minimize the close connection between the mood contextual to the draft writing and the final draft review.

I have some good hints to write a potential workflow.

4 steps to transform a draft into a final article

  1. Write a draft as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.
  2. Put the draft aside and forget about it for at least a week.
  3. Get back to the draft and see if you feel different while reading it. Do you feel the same reactions with the same intensity as when you initially wrote it? If yes, wait another week.
  4. When you finally feel enough distance from your words: start the revision. Be sure to have a goal and an intention. If it is not just a diary page that you want to read to get inspiration (maybe to write more) then you should have a specific goal in mind: a target audience, a medium and an outcome generated by the publishing of that writing.

Application in other contexts

This phenomenon is affecting not only blog publishing but also publishing a new newsletter issue. I feel so excited and want to let it out that I am inpatient and little tolerant of the workflow when I am writing the body text. I really don’t want to spend another couple of hours to craft the copy, the headings and to also add an image. I just want to get rid of it! I want to do more, write another article, another diary page, another draft.

This is related to the tone and the mood embedded in my writing style. I tend to be in a vulnerable place, just before I am hitting the ‘publish’ button. So I am rendered as a disarticulated thinker, overwhelmed by his thoughts and his emotions, almost looking for public help (instead of public recognition). And maybe that is exactly so. I am looking for help in clarifying and sometimes justifying my thoughts.

There you go: this is what I don’t want. A soliloquio in which I raise a psychological fence and I set the environment all-about-me and not about-you-the-reader or as I aim to: all-about-us-as-a-people-thinking-together.

This is also a reason why I get demotivated and I just stop writing. Why should I go through the pain of all of this? Who has just prescribed that to me?

But I am not fair to myself. I recognize the immense benefits of having built a habit in journaling, time management and the first timid trials in Personal Knowledge Management.

I am young. At heart. I just need to be patient. Insist. And work on my publishing habit. Recognizing that is not exactly the same as writing, journaling, thinking, knowledge working, discussing. Especially if I have such a clear mind on how I want to be perceived and where I want to drive my personal research.

A meta-solution

What really amuses me is that I’ve applied the very same method I’ve materialized here to this article. I wrote a draft and I’ve invited people from the many communities I am following to give feedback. And… it works! After a few days I am publishing the final version.

I’d like to thank for the feedback contributed by: Bruno Winck, Bob Barnard, Brendan Seibel, Mihir, Eric Kim, David De Souza, bjorke, Marian_Edmunds, Roger Eddy.

In conclusion

This helps. I am happy. I feel relieved. I think I also have some action items. It’s a great day!

What do you think? How do you relate? How do you cope with this? Thanks.

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