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As writers, we can only beat ourselves up so much

Words by Jonathan Barrett

When it’s out there, it’s out there.

A couple months ago I wrote something for The Riff Raff about writing as a dyslexic which I thought I was content with, and I was over the moon that someone else liked it enough to post it.

It was only afterwards that I read it back and realised there were several changes I would have made. Better descriptions and better metaphors. When talking about my reading speed I stated that glaciers move faster; a better one would have been relating it to the speed of a snail moving across the page – and that a snail would still be faster.

Had I posted the piece on my own website I could have gone back and changed these infuriating hindsights. With a Facebook post or a misspelt hashtag on Instagram, you are able to go back, subtly make changes, add to it, replace it or delete it completely with maybe only a few people noticing. Unless you are Donald Trump, or Kanye.

I can only imagine how much more intense this feeling must be with a book: a tangible object that's had resources spent on it. What would you do if you made a glaring error? Wait until the publishers release a second edition?

Perhaps this is a not-so-subtle metaphor for life: sometimes there is no reset button and once it’s out there, it’s out there. It has certainly given me pause for thought in terms of my writing.

It's important not to rush your work just to get it out into the world. Yes, some people are writing to a deadline (I am but a humble blogger aiming for the big leagues and not currently burdened by these constraints) and might not have the luxury of time.

We are currently in the month of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where most people have set themselves the task of writing 50,000 words by the end of the month – hopefully the quality of those words will be just as important as the quantity.

But the more I write, the more I find it helpful to continuously re-read what I’ve written, to read it out loud or have someone else read it for me so I can hear what it actually sounds like, rather than have my brain disguise what is actually on the page.

As writers we can only beat ourselves up so much when our work doesn't turn out perfectly. Early drafts are not meant to be our best effort. Personally, I feel that the more experience I gain, the happier I will be about my work and the less likely I will be to look back and hate it.

And at least I can still put my un-used snail metaphor to work somewhere else...if I don't come up with something better in the meantime.

Read more of Jonathan's work here and follow him on Twitter here.

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