Writing vs editing: Which is harder?

Reading time: About 3 minutes

In the match-up of writing vs editing, most people know pretty quickly which fighter they prefer to back…

Please, answer me honestly. Which do you find harder — writing or editing?

Of course, there’s no “right” response. It’s equally correct to answer either way. This is really a matter of training, taste, life experience and habit.

The people who think writing is harder often visualize it as swinging a pickaxe at a very hard rock. And they see editing as more like polishing that rock — easier to do, more quantifiable, more enjoyable and more rewarding.

The people who think editing is harder (and, in my experience, fewer people fall into this camp) feel that it requires so much more discipline than writing, which is just fun for people who enjoy writing.

But even though the middle is the happiest place to be — liking both tasks more or less equally — I find few people fall there.

In my experience as a writing coach, roughly 75% of people find writing harder and some 25% find editing harder.

So how do you try to get to the glorious middle?

Here are my suggestions:

First, figure out your preferences: Many people tell me they “hate” writing, but when I explore this feeling with them, it usually turns out that they hate only some specific part of the writing process — perhaps the research, maybe the writing, possibly the editing. Don’t consign the entire process to the scrap heap of things you don’t like. Figure out the part you don’t like so you can take some concrete steps to make it better for yourself. Question to ask yourself: If someone else forced me to either write or edit, which task would I resist more?

Devote a small amount of daily time to the task you like the least. If you hate editing (or writing), RELAX. I’m not going to suggest you spend 30 to 60 minutes on it. Instead, I suggest you spend somewhere between one and five minutes on it. Yes, I know, you will accomplish woefully little during that small amount of time. But here’s the trick: you need to do it daily or at least five days a week. It’s the frequent exposure to a task you think you don’t enjoy that will help turn things around. By doing a little bit every day, you’ll build the habit of doing it, and it will start to seem more predictable and less frightening or distasteful. Over weeks and months, you can gradually ramp up your time, but always start small — very small. Question to ask yourself: Can I honestly look at myself in a mirror and say that I don’t have one minute, five days a week, for writing or editing?

Spend time on the task you like least in the morning. Yes, I know this will be tough for some of you. You have lots of obligations in the morning. Perhaps you have kids to get to school or dogs to walk or an office to which you need to commute. But the benefit of doing a hard task in the morning is that you’ll get it out of the way. Instead of writing or editing being a guilty thought nagging at your consciousness, it will become something you just do, like brushing your teeth or setting the table. Perhaps not your favourite thing in the world, but nothing to get worked up about either. Remember: I’m not asking you to get up at 5 am. Any time before noon is fine. Question to ask yourself: Busy as I am, where can I find one to five minutes of time in my morning?

Replace negative self-talk with more positive messages (even if you feel they’re untrue). Do you frequently find yourself saying things like: “I detest writing,” or “Editing makes me feel like I’m losing my mind,” or “I’d rather get a root canal without anesthesia than write or edit”? Every time you repeat these messages, you’re deepening their hold on you. Instead, try saying, “I used to hate writing, but I don’t mind it now.” Or, “I have to do this for only two minutes, and that’s not so bad.” Question to ask yourself: How can I make the messages I’m giving myself about writing or editing more positive?

Bonus tip for people who find writing harder: Remind yourself that as soon as you get your rough draft on the page, you’ll have the opportunity to edit it — a task you actually enjoy doing. And you can’t edit a blank page.

Bonus tip for people who find editing harder: Remind yourself that your job is not to make your text perfect. Your only goal is to make it better. And don’t hesitate to ask for help from friends and colleagues.

Self-confession: I used to be one of those writers who adored editing and hated writing. But once I learned to make peace with writing, it became a task I enjoy just as much as I enjoy editing.

Why don’t you try to meet me in the middle?


My video podcast last week addressed the ideal amount of time for a writing session. Go here to see the video or read the transcript, and you can also subscribe to my YouTube channel.


Need some help developing a better writing routine? Learn more about my Get It Done program. There is turn-over each month, and priority will go to those who have applied first. You can go directly to the application form and you’ll hear back from me within 24 hours.


In the choice of writing vs editing, which do you prefer, and why? We can all learn from each other so, please, share your thoughts with my readers and me in the “comments” section below. If you comment on today’s post (or any others) by Nov. 30/23 I’ll put you in a draw  for a digital copy of my first book, 8 1/2 Steps to Writing Faster, Better. To enter, please scroll down to the comments, directly underneath the “related posts” links, below. Note that you don’t have to join Disqus to post. See here to learn how to post as a guest. It’s easy!


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