In writing, you must kill your darlings.” – William Faulkner

While the quote’s origin is ambiguous, the power of the message is the same.

Whether you’re writing content for your website, your latest blog post, or a cold sales email, being ruthless with each draft is one of the greatest things you can do.

When we spend hours slaving away at drafts of content, it’s easy to become emotionally attached to your writing. Like soldiers, you’ve both been through a lot together. Late nights and early mornings…caffeine dependency…it’s only natural to feel protective of your perfectly honed words.

We attach a disproportionate amount of value to the things that require the most effort. It’s irrational, but hey, that’s humans in a nutshell.

Remember – your thoughts, words and ideas are all disposable. They bend to your purpose, not the other way around. The quicker you internalise that – the quicker the quality of your writing will improve.

Applying the Tip

1. Ideas First – Then Words

We’re often told to write as much as humanly possible, then edit. This is terrible advice. The more you slave over one idea, the harder it becomes to edit it. You become too attached, too close to the one concept – even if the concept itself is sub-par.

I suggest investing more time in coming up with the right idea/angle/approach. Write down 10 of these. Carefully choose your favourite. Then plan out your content carefully for your chosen idea. This will give you a solid base, and make editing far, far easier when the time comes.

2. Reveal it to the World

This can be a sobering experience. However, getting as many perspectives as possible on your writing can bring you back to reality. Nothing pops your bubble of creative delusion like a bit of objective feedback. Think about outsourcing a proofreader or copy-editor if you want to take it up a notch.

3. Weigh & Measure Your Idea

Write down guidelines for what you want your writing to achieve. E.g. desired tone, what benefits you want to communicate, and what actions you want the reader to take. Write these before starting on your content. Once complete, refer to these guidelines. Is your writing achieving all of these? No? Edit ruthlessly until it is. Yes? Good job!

Hopefully this writing tip has been of some use. Being objective with your writing is one of the most valuable skills you can have, regardless of what you’re writing.


About the author: Tobias Pettigrew


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