Writing on the Front Line
Don’t think about writing, think about publishing
The front line has always scared me. A lot. The front line is the button that reads “Submit” or “Send” or “Publish”, depending on the app or service.
The front line is the limit between my internal thoughts, ideas, phrases or words, and the external world, the outside, the public square, the wild west.
The front line is where battles start as much as the communities, where others read you, comment on you, criticize you, edit you, reply to you, answer to you.
The front line is where your phrases and words are no longer yours—no matter if they are signed or authored—but they belong to whoever reads them.
The traditional writing process
As you may know, the writing process consists of different steps: prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.
These steps have been clear to me since young because I was born in the pre-computer era.
Every step had different physical support for each. You usually wrote the prewriting on index cards or yellow pads. Drafting was done in the typewriter machine first, then on the first personal computers. For revising and editing you used printed drafts to take notes and comments handwriting on them—even if you wrote on the computer, you printed for revising and editing.
Publishing was just a gesture because the final publishing was usually the work of the printer—I mean, the person who used the printer press—or the designer—to make the page proof or the prepress.
Therefore, the writing was far away from the publishing. You wrote without thinking of publishing during most of the steps.
Freewriting, for example, it’s a very well known technique you can use in prewriting and drafting. It doesn’t matter your freewriting text is bad, nobody was going to read it. It’s far away from publishing.
The problem is when the road is long, you always have the option to change your path or even to return.
Today we keep using this description of steps even when some of them are done in the same support: the word processor, the text editor, or your preferred app for writing. And everything on the computer monitor. No more printing on paper.
The ways of writing vary a lot from person to person. Some use an app—usually a mobile app—for notes and ideas or for outlining, and another for writing from the draft to the editing or publishing.
But, in the end, most of the prewriting, drafting, revising and editing is done on the same file or document.
You may use different techniques to track the changes, from saving as your file and keeping duplicates, to using a versioning system.
But I insist, in the end, you are going through the writing process almost on the same document.
The steps have become a mindset, a mental framework, virtual stages of writing.
Drafting makes you feel safe (and that’s not good)
The idea of drafting makes me feel safe. I can do anything with my draft as long as publishing is far away from it.
And that’s not a good thing.
We all have worked under the pressure of deadlines. Some people work well with them, some not.
I have noticed that I don’t like to work with deadlines but I’m good working under the pressure of them.
Writing close to a deadline is writing close to the publishing step.
For reasons I can’t sustain anymore, I used to write in a different place than the place I used to publish. Now I think it was just a custom or a habit.
And even if I wrote in the same place, I used to keep in my mind the idea that I was just drafting. I mean, that the outcome of the writing was going to be a draft I could delete, edit, reuse or keep as an idea.
As with the deadline, I don’t like to write on the line of fire but I’m good writing under the pressure of it.
How I write on the front line
This is how I write articles today. I do it in one or two sessions.
- I select an idea or title to work on.
- I write the entire piece I intend to publish—a straight forward writing or unsorted story beats.
- If I need to search for something (in less than one minute), I do it immediately; if I need to research for something (that takes more than one minute), I leave it for the end.
- I do the revising, rewriting, and editing.
- I rewrite and refine the title, select pictures or illustrations, subtitle sections …
- I publish, send or submit.
Although I keep the ideas or possible titles apart, I try to write the article directly in the online web editor behind the publication platform—like the one that we use here on Medium, Wordpress or the publishing platform.
Publish, send or submit
Some time ago I was afraid of the publish, send or submit button.
Today I find some excitement in writing so close to the publish button. It keeps my mind focused on the immediate consequence of the text I’m composing: publishing.
Besides, writing on the front line constantly reminds me of the purpose of what I’m writing, the article or story, with the specific title and format.
Before this technique, I used to ramble and digress in my writing, and because I wasn’t writing directly on the final piece, it was easy to think that I could use the ramblings and digressions for other pieces. So, I didn’t reach the original goal.
It may be a generational thing. Those who were born with computers and the internet in their daily lives may perceive no difference between writing and publishing. They just write and press the “publish” or “send” button without stress.
Now, I’m not keeping drafts in other apps or documents. What I write is what I publish.
Now, I’m embracing the stress, pressure, and adrenaline of writing on the front line. It motivates me and makes me more productive. It helps me get more focused.
Today I have a new mindset, a new mantra or motto I repeat to myself:
Don’t think about writing, think about publishing.