Learn to Fail Faster

“Everything he writes is great the first time. It’s amazing: he writes it down and it’s beautiful. He doesn’t need to rewrite his work at all.”

When I heard someone lift up one of their leaders this way, I thought, “No way. It can’t be true. He just doesn’t see the process—he only sees the final product.” I still believe that. Writing is rewriting.

Good writers don’t publish their first draft. Good writers fail faster than other writers. They rewrite their work quicker. They find the best parts of what they wrote, condense their writing down to that alone, and then publish it.

Editing can be grueling. But that’s why it’s a science and an art. Like engineering, it requires both sides of your brain and thus isn’t for everyone. Nonetheless, I think anyone can learn to edit. You just have to be very hard on yourself. Like any art form, there aren’t shortcuts, but there are tricks. (More on that in a later post.)

No one is exempt from this rule. Everyone needs to edit their own work, and everyone needs an editor. My last “Letter from the Editor” in Bible Study Magazine went through five complete rewrites. But I didn’t spend more time on it than usual, because editing has become part of my process. The rewriting process actually takes me less time than the writing process used to.

Learn to edit while you write. Make it part of your process. I’m learning to immediately see the flaws in my writing. I now rework sentences as they go on paper. Maybe when the guy said, “Everything he writes is great the first time,” he meant, “Everything we see is great.”

A designer friend of mine recently said: Good designers fail faster. Good designers see their art as a work in progress. Failing faster is the key to being efficient and producing a great product. It’s how you do what businesses and consumers desire: great work, fast.

Learn to fail faster. Then learn to make your failures a success. It works.

What does your process look like?

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