They say writing is rewriting. Well, I love writing, but I hate rewriting.
The first draft is my favorite part of the process. While it’s often difficult, I enjoy the challenge because it’s pure creativity. Rewriting and editing, on the other hand, feels like drudgery. I know it’s important and makes the work better, but I just want to get it over with and move on to the next project and write something new.
I was wondering why I enjoy writing so much more than rewriting, and I think it has more to do with than just the amount of creativity involved. There might be a neurological reason–specifically, the lack of a dopamine reward.
When writing a first draft, you have a clear sense of exactly how many pages you write each day. Seeing five filled pages in your word document at the end of the day gives you a dopamine hit, and it feels rewarding. When writing, you have a clear indicator of how many words you wrote that day. But you never know how many words you re-wrote in any given day. You can try to go by pages, but some pages may require more rewriting than others, so it’s not a true gauge of the amount of work done.
But when rewriting and editing, you have no clear sense of how much work you actually did. You can spend months rewriting and improving your work drastically, but the page number and word count may stay the same—or go down. You don’t get that instant dopamine hit from accomplishing the clear goal of adding words to pages.
I don’t know if there’s a way to get around that and hack the rewriting process to receive those dopamine rewards you get from writing first drafts. Perhaps printing the document out to edit longhand, or typing rewrites in a different color. Regardless, I’ll probably never love rewriting as much as writing. But maybe I can learn to hate it less.
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