Don’t Delete Stuff When You’re Writing. Try This Instead.
Updated: Jul 22
Or, the art of pushing words down.
I'm a big fan of writing in an actual notebook. Everything's always going to be there – unless you rip out the page or cross it out so intensely you'd never be able to decipher the now-hidden meaning.
In those situations, heck, those words were meant to disappear forever.
But when we're using Google Docs or Word, it's so easy to just hit delete on a sentence we don't like, or a word that's not working. What if, after a good night's sleep, you realize that phrase was the best one out there? And now it's gone!? You can hit CTRL Z forever, but it's not coming back.
It's gone, friends. It's gone.
Instead, you can try what works for me: Pushing words and phrases down the page.
It's really pretty simple. Think of the top of your doc as the copy that's looking like it'll be pretty final. Everything else goes below, one page down. This way, you're not deleting anything at all – you're just pushing the non-winners down the page. And it's all down there, sitting in a holding pattern, if you decide to pull it back up into your piece.
And it takes less thought, so you can speed up your process of trying new words and phrases. It's kind of like when you're trying to clean house:
It takes two seconds to say, "I'm going to shove these old shirts into a box under the bed."
It takes a lot longer to be like, "I'm going to donate these today...oh wait...am I really sure I want to get rid of them? My first-ever girlfriend gave me this shirt. This is the literal fabric of my history!"
My point is this: Keep your non-winning words and phrases nearby. It's easier to shove them into a box and less thought is required. And if you end up needing them, they're right there.
I do this both when I'm editing and actively as I'm writing. And then when I'm done, I normally have a few pages of non-sensical phrases...a junkyard of sentences that didn't make the cut. You can keep these around as long as you'd like – until you feel like your final copy is solid.
Then, once your copy is freaking amazing, delete your old phrases. And while you're at it, donate those old t-shirts. You're never going to wear them.
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