writing the second time

Something I have been noticing about myself, recently, is that sitting down to a piece of writing the second time is the hardest thing about completing something for me. It's not that I can't concentrate — I can and have spent half a day on a post for this blog — but that if I can't finish a piece in one sitting, however long, it is likely to languish, possibly forever.

Certainly sitting down to a blank page is hard, but for the kind of semi-structured writing I do most frequently (blogging; hi guys!), I have a few standard things I can do when I'm feeling uninspired (reviews), I keep an IDEAS file which serves as a tickler, and I usually have more ideas clamoring to be written up than I have posts to make, so I don't usually find myself staring at an empty screen wondering what to write. In fact I find that I can often rely on being mugged by an idea and writing it up in a single streak at least once a week. Coming back to a post I have started and put aside, though — that's much harder (and sort of incentivizes getting mugged, which doesn't always do good things for my sleep schedule, since ideas for me seem to like to lurk in the shadows of 4 AM). True to form, I didn't set out to write this as a blog entry — it began its life as a one-sentence IM and escaped from there as it grew, I've been entirely focused on it since I started it, and I'm posting it at o'dark o'clock.

I'm not entirely sure why it's harder for me to come back to a piece of writing — picking up my train of thought is hard? After the initial excitement, caring is hard? The second time, it's work? I don't know. But it is definitely harder.

Do you notice this in your writing? How do you cope?

3 thoughts on “writing the second time”

  1. I have the same problem

    I have the same problem.

    I have done two things to mitigate the problem with some success:

    First, I’ve gotten better at outlining before creating a first draft, and following the outline with the first draft, leaving new material as notes. This makes first drafts go faster, and gives me something to work into the second draft, so second draft isn’t just about polish, there is always something substantial I can add or change.

    The second technique is to get someone else to read the first draft. This also serves to give me something concrete to react to and fix, making coming back to the draft not so much work.

    I hope that helps. I’m open to other suggestions, as I’m still struggling with the same issue.

  2. Interesting. I have one unfinished post which is half fairly polished prose and nothing else, and one which is a fairly detailed complete outline. I’ll have to compare which one is easier to come back to — your experience suggests the latter.

    Getting someone to read the posts over is also interesting. I’ve been wondering if I would benefit from having an editor for my longer posts, because I know I can get kind of wordy and long-winded. But an editor’s not really something you pick up at the corner store. :-/

  3. I attribute this phenomenon to the twenty-twenty-ness of hindsight: the ideas in half-finished posts often just don’t seem as clever and original when I get back to them a few days later. I’m becoming fairly comfortable with just throwing the post out at that point. If the ideas were really good they’ll probably come back to haunt me in some different form later, and I don’t seem to be running out of things to write about.

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