Posted by: Matt Q. McGovern | February 5, 2014

Practicing what I preach

I love the subject of writing. I find that whenever someone who is interested in writing (and hasn’t yet gotten started) asks me about it, I pull out my inner professor and put on a display of all the knowledge I’ve gleaned from the many writers I’ve spoken to over the years on this subject. I’ve even come up with some topics on my own.

But when it comes to my own writing, sometimes it’s like I never knew any of it.

Writing a rough draft and NOT polishing it along the way. That’s a good one. It took me several drafts before I eventually realized that I was trying to make it a final draft the whole time I was writing. Later when I had gotten past those learning lessons and began the whole process over again, I found that I was doing it again.

Revising while drafting is okay if it’s done quickly, so I say. But how many times have I sat there with my fingers hovering over the keyboard because I wanted the paragraph to be perfect? Too many times and I do it to this day.

I probably can get past this little conflict if I decided to no longer care about spelling errors and just keep going. That’s a tough one for me, though. I edit emails that I’m writing as well as documentation I do during the day for my job. I’m a software developer and spelling in unofficial documentation (or any kind, for that matter) is hardly considered mandatory for software developers nowadays. And yet, I do it all the time, and if I do it in those instances you can bet I do it in writing, rough draft or not.

Another area that is an easy distraction for me is research during a rough draft. I’ve always preached what many writers have: keep the writing going and come back to it later. Not only do I not practice this, but I think I may have invented a new variety of attention deficit disorder where the distraction is reading an encyclopedia (or in this case, the internet).

Granted, some of those distractions ended up being great directions for the writing I was involved in at the time. But there’s a lot of room for improvement, time-wise.

As 2014 is now a month old, I realize that my goals for writing this year need to have the above two factors at the top of my list of resolutions. Or at least to acknowledge that I need to practice what I preach.


  1. I’m guilty of some of these same mistakes, particularly trying to polish while writing a rough draft. That’s why I prefer to dictate my first draft. That way I can keep my thoughts flowing without being too tempted to do more.


    • That’s a great way to do it! That way you can get writing done without having to worry about the computer, or setting up, etc. I imagine that doing dialogue is given a boost, too, because you’re less inclined to “get it perfect”.


  2. Matt, I also revise (rigorously) as I write, esp. as to plot, character,and theme elements. But I don’t deem it problematical in any way. I liken it to laying railroad tracks: if tracks are laid helter-skelter then the train will want to run off in the wrong direction. Aslo, being a pantser, it’s not that I know more than the general direction anyway, so I can’t say that edit-as-I-go is necessarily holding me up, but rather tends to suggest further direction.


    • I totally agree about the train tracks. I find it very difficult to continue if I detect that my tracks are laid helter-skelter. My problem (one of them) with revising as I go is more about polishing before it’s time to do so. I can also get hung up on it too.

      Thanks for reading and posting!


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