The Writing Process

What to do When You’ve Written Junk

Just recently, I wrote a post based on something I had read on the internet. It was, obviously, brilliantly written and well reasoned, but it was also flat out wrong. I had misread or misinterpreted the post I was basing my argument on, so after wasting spending an hour writing the piece and working through the discussion in my head, I was a little bit ticked off when I returned to the impetus for my article and realized I had goofed. I wasn’t just slightly off. I had, as the saying goes in polite terms, “crapped the bed.”

Now what?

Now, here I am writing a follow up. I had crafted some good writing in my post, so I didn’t want to delete it altogether. I began paring it down from the bottom up, removing paragraph by paragraph, trying to get it down to something I could salvage but it was hopeless.

What to do with your junk content?

Well, hopefully you can repurpose it, massage that jangle of words into something useful. If not, there might still be a silver lining (Ha, I almost wrote “sliver”). I learned two valuable things during this process. One of those things I hope to never repeat, and the other I hope I never forget. Oh, and there’s a third point that just is what it is.

  1. Reread your input: For the love of all that’s holy, make sure you understand what you’re writing about. You don’t have to be the industry expert, but get the facts right. In my case, I had read the first piece a few weeks ago, and then read a follow up that didn’t properly explain the concepts in the original, so I made assumptions.
  2. Trust the process: If you think you’ve written junk, it probably isn’t. Writing takes practice, and if you’re writing your own content and you aren’t a professional writer, it might take some time. Hell, writing good content takes time even as a pro! Writing is a process, and one that we need to trust implicitly. If we’re setting the bar so high that only the best, magnum opus-quality writing will do, disappointment is going to be damn near constant. When you write, you get better.
  3. Know when to run: Sometimes, you just have to throw in the towel. But there’s usually a way to learn from what you’ve done wrong and spin it into something new. Trash your original, and move on.
The Silver Lining

Isn’t life great? We get to learn – or relearn – pretty much every day if we keep our eyes open. The next time I’m sitting at the keyboard getting ready to write, I’m going to remember the process. I can’t remember where I read it, but I think it was Sonia Simone from Copyblogger (among other things) who wrote, “creativity is hard.” And it is. But it’s also iterative, flexible and forgiving, and goes a long way if you trust it.

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