Be Fast to Fail with Writing

Be Fast to Fail with Writing

By on Oct 22, 2012 in Content & Social Media, Marketing | 3 comments

If you’re at all familiar with the world of startups, you’ve probably heard the phrase “fail fast.”  When you take this approach,  instead of laboring over a product for years in secret, you work to get it to market as fast as you possibly can, even if it’s rough and ugly and lacking every bell and whistle you wanted. Why? So you can find out if there’s actually a market for it. It’s better to find out in a rush if something’s a bust than to waste years of your life on a project that, no matter how perfect, will never go anywhere.

It’s a great principle for startups, but it also applies to your content writing. This need for perfection holds writers back. They refuse to move on until each sentence is a mini-Mona Lisa. Unfortunately, that means they often don’t finish at all. They just sit there, raking over that sentence over and over again until the deadline is past, the article is no longer current and no one cares. But hey, there’s one beautiful sentence.

Writers, like tech companies, need to fail fast. We need to get over our need to perfect every sentence and get something on the screen. It’s always easier to edit than to create. Once you have a basis for an entire article, not just a few fragmentary pieces, you can start to make the entire work better. You can see how every sentence and every idea works together in an interconnected framework. Or you can see that the whole piece is a giant waste of time and it needs to be scrapped into the trash forthwith. That happens sometimes, too. Better to figure that out because you spent 30 minutes brain dumping onto a page and creating something than after you spent two hours creating a beautifully crafted batch of nothing.

Take this exercise: The next time you sit down to write something, resolve not to take your fingers off the keys until you have a finished draft. Remember, finished is not equal to final. This is just something that has all the basic anatomy of a final post. Resist the urge to walk away, to move your fingers to your cursor and go back and fix things. Do not tweak. Do not edit. Just write until you reach the end. Then go back to the beginning. Let’s face it, your writing is probably rough and ugly. But you can see the ugliness–and see the solutions for how to fix it.

Whether you write for a living or you occasionally blog for your company, you need to get out of your own way to be successful. Start by failing hard, often and above all, fast. You’ll find the overall quality of your work increases, your time spent working on pieces decreases, and everyone’s happy. Get that fear of failure out of your head–we just can’t succeed without it.

photo credit: laszlo-photo via photopin cc

  • robbyslaughter

    I feel like I should be linking to a certain book that implies Failure is the secret to success.

  • http://twitter.com/saraelysecroft Sara Croft

    Good thing I don’t know jack about grammar, because the perfectionist in me would take YEARS to write a blog post!

  • http://twitter.com/WriteNowIndy Chris Vanasdalan

    Great advice. In theory one could spend a whole lifetime on a piece of writing and still never get it perfect. It’s important to get your ideas across and get them out there.

    I really like the point about not editing while you’re writing. It’s tough to turn off your inner editor but it’s one of the keys to simply getting your thoughts on paper. Imagine trying to write with someone standing over your shoulder screaming, “mistake!” every time you spelled a word wrong.

    Often I’ll turn off my monitor when I write, so I can’t see all the errors as I type. Then I go back in and edit the piece later.

    There are no great writers, only great re-writers.