Bennis Inc. | When To Hit Delete: Starting over is NOT the same as giving up
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When To Hit Delete: Starting over is NOT the same as giving up

When To Hit Delete: Starting over is NOT the same as giving up

giving up, starting overThere are some weeks where my Monday blog topic clearly presents itself. It’s an obvious epiphany, life lesson or a piece of business advice I’m thrilled to share. But there are some weeks where finding an inspiring blog topic consumes more time and energy than some of my biggest work projects. Because this blog is more a creative outlet and not my bread and butter, I have to be careful how much I allow something that’s supposed to be an enjoyment stress me out. Well if this blog’s title isn’t indication enough…this week fell more under category #2.

I started off with everything in my advantage. I began writing good and early (I like to pre-write my blog posts no later than the Thursday prior to publishing). I even had a quote that inspired me to write about a particular topic and the ideas flowed easily. By a few paragraphs in, I realized I didn’t like the direction I was headed, but felt I had come too far to turn back. A little unsettled by the fact I didn’t love my work, I kept going. I concluded with my final thought and realized I had invested even more of my time into half-heartedly completing a project I would call “mediocre” at best. I may have been bitter, but I wasn’t going to give up. So I spent yet more time scouring my writing for ways to reorganize and direct it back to my original point – but it couldn’t be done. The editing it would require to become the finished product I wanted it to be would take more time than simply starting over. If there’s something I hate more than failing it’s wasting time – and I had successfully (or unsuccessfully) done both.

I couldn’t bear to hit delete and erase hours’ worth of work, so instead I hit “Save,” opened a new Word doc and began again. The ideas continued to flow, but not too long into writing, I realized I still wasn’t loving the direction I was headed. I read and re-read, outlined paragraph topics and jotted down ideas all in an effort to make a roadmap that would lead me to the final point that so perfectly coordinated with the quote that was the blog’s inspiration. I closed my laptop for the night and refused to confront the issue until two days later.

When I looked at my work again, my feelings hadn’t changed. I was still out-of-love with the words and turned off to the whole topic by this point. So I deleted every one of those 2,243 characters and began again. And then it hit me – I was so stubborn and unwilling to start over because I felt like starting over was the same as giving up. Instead of cutting my losses on a few hours’ worth of work, I was more willing to continue to put even more time into a project that was going to fail anyway. I know I’m not alone in this feeling whether it’s in writing, business or in life. There are times where we feel like we’ve invested so much that we can turn back, that hitting stop and starting over would be the biggest failure. No. Investing even more time into a failing project is the failure. Stopping and never staring again is the failure. But restarting and rebuilding from the ground up is a humbling and rewarding experience.

Writing has always been and will continue to be one of my most favorite hobbies. The only time it really becomes an effort is when I refuse to let the words take me where they please. This is just as applicable to life – when we’re too focused on reaching a specific end point, we lose the ability to wander down a different path and find an even better destination. I would have never thought that the struggles of writing could teach me such a broad life lesson, but I suppose my doubt is what led me to write three versions of this week’s blog in the first place.

In a funny twist of fate, I’ll share with you the original inspiration quote I worked so hard to mold my writing around. It looks like everything I just wrote was everything I wanted to write all along…

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people are so full of doubts.” Bertrand Russell

Stephanie Shirley

stephanie@bennisinc.com