Why revision should feel like torture

Reading my first book is infuriating at times, yet I’m happy about it. How can this be?

Given the unusual task of revising something already published (in this case, a book), there are two likely ways to feel about it:

  1. This is great! I don’t want to change a thing.
  2. This sucks! I want to rewrite this thing from scratch.

The first case is only superficially good. If I can’t see ways to improve the writing, or to give better advice, then what have I learned about writing (or management) in the last three years? Not much.

The second case, while painful, illustrates growth. If I don’t like it, it suggests I’m capable, now, of making the same points in less words, from a better perspective, or with a clearer structure that’s more fun to read.

In truth, the book is what it is. I’m not the same guy I was when I wrote the thing, and part of what makes the book good is who I was. It has to fit together and I don’t want to wander into George Lucas territory. But it’s fun snipping sentences, tightening paragraphs, updating references, and getting those exercises in there. I get to play my own editor for awhile.

My point I suppose is it’s healthy to go back to old writing and cringe. If you’re a blogger, go back and read your first posts – you’ll laugh and cry, I’m sure. That’s good – you’re still alive and getting better.

2 Responses to “Why revision should feel like torture”

  1. Mark Gregory

    Having recently re-read the poetry I wrote at the end of my not-so-tortured adolescence 12 years ago, I agree. Nothing told me that both writing and life are processes not products, like that did!

  2. John Trammell

    I spent some time looking for an errata sheet for The Art of Project Management (“TAOPM”). If one exists, it’s not easy to find. Honestly, I’m a little surprised. I’d expect to be able to find a link at scottberkun.com, or perhaps google for “the art of project management errata”, or find a link in the preface. No dice on any of those.

    FYI, I found a typo on p. 309 (“Triage takes places…”), but I’m not sure if it’s known or not.


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