Sunday, April 13, 2008

Self -Editing and Thinking vs. Reacting

The editing process exists for a reason. We don't always get it right the first time. While I am someone who believes instinct is very strong and powerful, my gut reaction has left me with regrets in the past so I'm trying very hard to be more of a thoughtful thinker instead of a passionate reactor.

This weekend I started off reacting and thankfully, I managed to put on the brakes, which is a good thing because I almost quit a new gig. Had I quit, I'm sure it would've left me feeling like a failure because I prefer to finish what I start. 'Tis not over yet as I have another week to wrap my brain around it and there's no guarantees about how it'll go but at least I have slowed down to give my brain a chance to edit and revise.

This week I took on a new client who has a different set of rules for SEO tactics and at first my reaction was excitement. I love the process of learning something new and I got really into it and was ready to prove how flexible I am. But it got confusing and after I got a long e-mail about what was wrong with my first draft I started jumping the gun and as a result e-mails were flying around with my gut reactions instead of well-thought out questions. When I'm not careful during the learning process I start to appear scattered. Instead of stopping and making a list of questions, I was sending out multiple e-mails and probably confusing the client.

I got frustrated and hit a brick wall with my own creative process and while in theory the new client's way of doing things does look easier, should produce better SEO results and better writing quality, I couldn't figure it out. Some of what (most of what) I do today is written more for the search engines than the readers and this new client's ways are supposed to do better in both worlds. So why can't I grasp it? The writing will look better, the process will be more creative and I'm burnt out on search engine fodder anyway and crave creativity. So, what's the problem? Can I write without thinking SEO (a.k.a. stuff as many keywords and be as sales pitchy as possible) as I write?

It's hard to re-learn how to ride a bicycle when everyone tells you that you're already a fantastic cyclist who has won many races. I went through a mini melt down on Friday night trying to break through writer's block and a learning curve that felt like a big brick wall. It wasn't pretty and I wasn't sure if I wanted to cry or throw the monitor. In the end, I walked away and opened a bottle of wine and then spent two hours with my husband watching The Last Lecture with Randy Pausch for the first time. Randy, talked a lot about brick walls and how they are put in front of you for a reason. It was very fitting for the kind of day I was having.

Before watching the lecture, I had drafted a goodbye note to the new client that was sitting in my in box. Thankfully I had decided to sleep on it though and in the morning had a really long and very helpful e-mail from someone at the client's office. Luckily, I put the brakes on and edited myself.

My point is that sometimes in this world of instant gratification, we move too quickly. Sometimes it is better to sleep on it. I am often praised on my fast turnaround. My staff and my clients love that they often hear from me less than five minutes after they ask me a question but the problem with these instant reactions of mine is that I can't edit myself once I've had a chance to let something sink in. So, as a result I sometimes agree to things I shouldn't, let people away with things they shouldn't even try and I've often taken jobs for money that's too low out of feeling a sense of urgency in terms of getting answers to those that are waiting. Because I am someone who hate to be kept waiting I feel like I need to give answers out the minute I'm asked.

Anyhow, I guess one of my weaker traits is reacting too quickly although many would list my attentiveness and speed as one of my strengths. It appears that it's a fine balance. Next time you feel passionate and are ready to hit the send button, remind yourself about the process of editing and decide if it's better to save that as a draft and look at it with fresh eyes later on. Because it's impossible to un-ring a bell, it might be that speedy response time is a little less vital than giving a response you won't regret.


Jen said...

Great post and, as always, very good advice.

Ashwin said...

"...My point is that sometimes in this world of instant gratification, we move too quickly. Sometimes it is better to sleep on it..."

I can't stress on this one any better than you did. Sleeping on it should be labeled as the number one cure for all temporary glitches one has to face every work day. Just like you, there have been innumerable times when torrents of ideas and "better sense" prevailed just because I decided not to react and slept over some of those mails and pending decisions that came by.
I did my share of mistakes and 'did not sleep over things like emails written to lambaste a few clients or those mailing conversations that might just lead to animosity'.

Good post Dana, as always! :-)

Dana Prince said...

Thanks, Ashwin! I'm really glad I slept on it. Normally my instinct tells me to deal with something straight away and get it over with. We'll see what happens this week :)
Nice to see you. It's been awhile. You've reminded me to pop over and visit you at your blog!


Ashwin said...

I saw you there. Thanks a million for dropping by. My blog isn't on the same league as yours or Darren or Sharon-- but I am working on it :-)

Marcie said...

Great post Dana! :) How about I have an e-mail to a client sitting in my draft folder right now. I keep going back and forth about what to do with it. Glad you were able to make a decision you are happy with after a good night's rest!