never too good to revise

Switch booksA friend and I are working our way through Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. We meet most weeks. We talk. I blog.

We both have preview copies. His, the one on the left in the picture, is a “pre-release galley,” distributed at a conference with a promise of the final copy. Mine is an “uncorrected proof,” sent to bloggers and others.

Twice so far (through chapter five), I’ve been reading ahead of him and have said, “this story is a key story.” I’ve told him about these stories (and the principles they illustrate). I’ve told other people about them. I’ve had my thinking shaped by them. These two stories are huge.

And twice Chuck has said, “I don’t have that story.”

In his “pre-release galley”, the principles are taught, but these two stories the Heath brothers used are far less vivid. There is something about the story of chocolate chip cookies and radishes, and the story of Attila the Accountant that are memorable, tellable. Sometime in the last round of revisions, after the book was already being passed around to other people, these guys made it better.

Here’s the lesson for me: you are never too good to revise what you write.

I love to finish a draft of a post and hit publish. I don’t like the idea of rereading, of revising, of throwing something away and finding something even better. And then I think of two guys who write as well, who sell as well, as the Heaths, and I think “I’ll bet they never have to revise.”

And now I have this proof that they do revise. And that it makes things better.

Bother. I’m going to have to switch.

One response to “never too good to revise

  1. Ah yes. The painful beauty of revisions.

    I rarely have time to really dig into blog posts and revise—if I did, I’m afraid I would only post once a week. I do love the revision process though, and it’s a process I used to despise! In my teens and 20s, I wanted everything I was good at (like writing and playing the viola) to also be effortless. I didn’t want to admit that it might not be fabulous the first time around. I didn’t want to work hard.

    I’ve been writing for a living for 15+ years now, and I’ve since gone through the revision process so many times that I’m now a true believer. I tell my students in the copywriting seminars I teach that it’s a two-step process: First cutting and tightening as much as you can, to get rid of everything redundant and obvious, then lengthening and deepening, mostly through rich details and stories, like the ones you mention. It takes time and effort, but the rewards are clear and satisfying.