Reading Your Own Words Isn’t Fun. Here’s Why You Need to Do It Anyway.

It’s a necessary evil.

My least favorite part of the writing process comes after the actual writing. I dread the moment I have to scroll back up to the top of whatever article or blog post I’ve just finished and reread everything my brain and fingers have just produced.

Reading your own work is about as cringe-worthy as it gets.

Maybe that’s a good thing.

Maybe the reason you’re not getting any better at what you do — the reason you’re not where you want to be in your hobby or career yet — lies within your unwillingness to review and self-reflect.

Yes, looking ahead is important. Yes, it’s unhealthy to dwell on your mistakes and allow your past shortcomings to negatively impact your future.

But can you really expect to grow, to learn, to thrive, if you don’t take the time to critique your own work?

There are plenty of authors who will never read their books again once they’re published. But if you listen closely, you’ll realize most of them refuse because what’s published, in their cases, cannot be changed.

If they could, there’s a lot they would do over again.

Because they’re able — and willing — to recognize that their work is not perfect. They’re aware they still have a lot to learn. No matter how many best-sellers or book-to-screenplay deals they have on their CVs.

Self-reviewing involves a lot of steps, likely many hours of reading and re-reading and thinking, “If I could change this now, here’s how I would make it better.”

This has no value whatsoever, of course, if you just do it for the sake of doing it. What matters is that you review your finished work, take notes, move on to something else, and study and apply what you’ve learned from your reviews to make your next piece of writing better than the last.

Maybe you don’t take the time to do this because you just don’t feel like you have the time.

Maybe you just don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and rereading your own work leaves you with a lesser opinion of yourself.

Whatever your excuse, it’s time to get over it. You can’t always rely on someone else to tell you what you’re doing wrong, or what you could be doing better. You need to develop that drive for self-improvement within your own realm of consciousness. Being aware of your own weaknesses and strengths is a trait many writers do not have — but all of us should.

I don’t like rereading my own work, whether I’ve just written it or I finished it six months or six years ago.

I do it anyway. Because there’s no hope of keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of the online publishing world — or pulling ahead — if I don’t suck it up and do what needs to be done.

It will make you a better writer.

It will fix many of the things “wrong” with your craft.

You have nothing to lose by doing it. So it’s not even a matter of why — but when.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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4 thoughts on “Reading Your Own Words Isn’t Fun. Here’s Why You Need to Do It Anyway.

  1. I would have to say I do and I don’t read my work. I do review my work and have had my novel thoroughly reviewed by myself and others, but one of the problems I have, is the temptation to change a perfectly good scene just because I second guessed myself. So at some point I’ve had to say enough is enough and set my work to the side.

  2. Like you, I periodically re-read … and every time I catch something that could be better. If it’s a technical error, and I’ve self-published the work, I fix it. If it’s just “I could have phrased that better, but it’s not awful,” I leave it. If it was traditionally published there’s only so much I can do.

  3. As a blogger, advocate and technical communicator, I suspect to have it a little easier to answer this question because of lower personal investment and a strong need to get the message right for its context.

    Good work has already been ruthlessly reviewed before release. In addition, I like the concept of eternal beta from the IT world. Release but continue to develop almost immediately. Also the kaizen (continuous improvement) management principle from Japanese firms comes to mind. In this spirit, a work is never finished and constantly evolving.

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