Two months into my new job, I remember how difficult writing content is. You need to build experience and courage — especially when you write about a product you haven’t written about before.
After 2 months, I have about 30 drafts stored on my laptop. I could have initiated and finished more pieces of marketing content, but sometimes I’m so disgusted by the awkward sentences I put on paper. As result, many drafts are deleted or saved and then left untouched.
This week, I realized that this needs to change, because every shitty draft matters and with every draft you write, you’re one step closer to a potentially great piece of content.
Here are some things I realized this week:
1) Don’t try to edit your draft
I’m a perfectionist, so I have the urge to edit while writing my draft. Every time I see a typo or grammar mistake, I’m tempted to use the backspace right away. And that is so counterproductive.
When you create content, you want to reach a flow state: A state in which you write down as much value as possible in a short amount of time. In his book ‘Deep Work’, Cal Newport mentions that if you focus on one task at once, you’re more likely to deliver high-quality work than when you’re multitasking (or trying to).
Obviously, writing and editing are two different tasks. You use different parts of your brain when executing these tasks. If you are writing and editing at the same time, you cannot use your creative brain to the fullest. Besides that, focusing on grammar mistakes and bad sentences while writing is also very demotivating.
2) Don’t set too much time aside for your draft
This week, I was reintroduced to Parkinson’s Law. It means: If we give ourselves a set period of time to complete a task, we will use that time to the fullest.
I often give myself 1 or 2 hours to write a first draft of a blog post. Effectively, I only spend about 10 to 20 minutes writing. The remaining time is spent on thinking about what to write, what to edit, why I even started creating, if I should delete my draft, and other fun practices of procrastinating.
This week, I tried writing a draft in 30 minutes. That draft certainly isn’t good, but thanks to my writing sprint, I certainly produced more content than I did during my 2-hour sessions. I also have a lot of more time to spend on other tasks, such as creating new drafts, editing drafts, or procrastinating.
3) Accept that your first draft is bad and clean it
The following metaphor has always stuck with me since becoming a Content Marketer: The wastewater metaphor.
None of our ideas are perfect, so we shouldn’t aim for perfection — especially when writing our first draft. The pipeline metaphor (Check Julian Shapiro’s Tweet above), has stuck with me since I started my career as a Content Marketer:
Our head is full of ideas, but because we have so many ideas, it can become a bit messy (with ‘it’, I refer to both our head and our ideas). Essentially, our creative brain is a backed-up pipe of wastewater.
We have to get rid of that wastewater before we start finding the good ideas. And the same is true when we create content for our Marketing channels: We have to put all of our ideas on paper first before finding the right words, phrases and sentences for your social media post or blog article.
We can refine our shitty first draft whenever we want. We just need to make sure that it’s there first. After that, we can edit, write our second (and third) draft, edit some more, and publish.
4) Let your shitty draft rest
It always helps to give yourself some time after finishing your shitty first draft. Leave your desk and come back at your draft after your break, nap, or sleep. Editing with a fresh mind is a lot more productive
5) You might think it’s shitty, others might not
I came across a wonderful passage in Stephen King’s book ‘On Writing.’ In his book, he said he threw away the first draft of his book ‘Carrie’ because he hated it. He didn’t like the character and storyline of his book and threw the draft into the trash bin.
His wife found his draft in the trash and read it — she loved it. And she encouraged him to continue his work.
He published that book, and now he has more than 4 million copies sold. The book was also turned into a movie.
‘On Writing’ teaches us an important lesson. If you dislike your own content, it doesn’t necessarily mean that others will dislike it too. You will only learn if your content is a hit or miss when you share your content with others. In the end, Marketing is about experimenting and getting to know your audience. So never delete your drafts.
BONUS: Share yourself
And last but not least, you can keep editing as much as you want, but nothing will ever be perfect: And that’s okay. Publishing a decent to good post is better than leaving all of your drafts unpublished because you’re striving for perfection. And don’t forget: You can always update your content if you see any ways to make your piece of content better (except on Twitter)