Write Now, Read Later

Flickr phot by ME°°

Flickr photo by ME°°

Think for a minute about your daily routine. When you turn on your computer, what’s the first thing you do? Do you read first or write first?

It certainly feels easy and natural to start our day with hearty helpings of content. Emails, blog posts and news stories are cooked up to perfection like an all-you-can eat buffet, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. All you have to do is open your browser and start reading.

But the problem with reading before writing is you never end up reading just what’s served to you. Much like the all-you-can-eat buffet, one article leads to another, which has a link to a helpful blog post, which contains a great YouTube video, followed by another one, and so on.

Before you know it your brain is stuffed and you can barely make it out of other people’s domains to get started on your own writing.

So what would happen if you reverse the schedule and try writing first and reading last? I can think of at least three positive, linear changes:

Your ideas will become more original

While it’s certainly good to be a well-read writer, it’s no longer realistic. There’s just too much out there to get every angle.

So why not write with a clear mind, free of other ideas and influence?

Try this: write a coherent rough draft before you do anything. Write your purest and deepest ideas, the ones only you could think. Then go out and read and compare other people’s ideas to yours, but don’t comment on them..yet. Instead, come back and edit your draft and be mindful of your observations.

Did the quality of your post improve?

You’ll engage eye-to-eye with others

Once you’ve edited your draft and published it, go back out to some of the more provocative posts you read earlier and plant your comments.

Since you’ve already written a remarkable post, the comments you leave should be more insightful than the average comment. And if the author is paying attention, she’ll likely comment back or visit your blog, or both.

If she visits your blog, chances are she’ll read your post–the genuine yet conscientious one you just wrote. And if she’s impressed–which by all means she should be– chances are she’ll subscribe to you, or better yet–tell others about you.

Not a bad way to do some marketing. Do this for awhile and

You’ll go from consumer to creator

Now you’re at the top of the food chain. You’ve built your own readership and have enough confidence in your own ideas to rely much less on the ideas of others to thrive.

People now come to you to satisfy their content cravings–all because you made a small but important change to your habits. Now you might even have the luxury of  more time.  If that’s the case, invest that time back into your writing and make it even better. Read fast, write slow.

Special thanks to 13 year-old(!) blogger Dan Miranda, whose energetic post gave me the inspiration to write this.

5 Replies

  1. Charles Reply

    Hi Dan — funny you mention ending your internet connection for a set amount of time. As I wrote my post I was thinking about just that! Some kind of device that just cuts your connection for some time and does not let it back on until the timer is up.

    One of these days, I’m sure…

  2. Writer Dad Reply

    I prefer to write first thing in the morning, it’s way better for me. However, my children also rise before the sun and while I can read with them in the background, unfortunately I can not write. Sigh. Maybe someday.

    • Charles Reply

      The earliest I can wake up is 5:30, and I go running at 6. We have 4 kids and their morning school routine is intense so I pretty much can’t write until I get to my office at 9. For some reason this seems way too late…