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Thoughts On Leaving Reviews Until Later And The Results Of Your Chosen Time Slot

A photograph of an open notepad with a big question mark drawn on it and a pen lying on top

When I originally wrote about (not) leaving reviews until later, I was roughly two and a half years into blogging. That was a long enough time to have collected some experience of the process, but I knew I had a lot left to learn.

I now find that the concept and resulting act of writing a review immediately after finishing the book is not always the best choice. (Or writing as immediately as possible – you can’t always time your reading of the last pages to match a following time slot in which to write.) If a book is simple or just straightforward, and doesn’t require too much thought, an immediate review can work, but most often I have to let ideas I want to include percolate for a while; I also sometimes need time to think back on what I’ve read to work out what I want to say or what I can say – some books’ themes are not immediately apparent.

Yet I still subscribe to the idea of writing as soon as possible in terms of getting things done. I’ve been using it consistently for a while now; done is better than perfect. It really is – you can have the best ideas in the world but if they’re only in your head and not on the page, their worth isn’t tangible. Done rather than perfect can result in the feeling that you’ve not done your best, and that’s frustrating, but better to have something rather than nothing. Certainly there’s a correlation between the numbers of notes made on a book and the time it takes to finish the review unless those notes are structured as a plan already.

Allowing thoughts to percolate works best if note-taking happens concurrent to the reading. I realised this recently; if not taken at the time of creation, as much as you might remember what the note was, you lose the context surrounding it. This context might not be important; when it is, it’s generally vital. I don’t mean references or anything like that, I mean the sort of context that involves where you were when you had the thought, what your exact feelings were – the specifics behind the note that transcend the text you were taking notes on. For example if I copy out a passage from a book with the comment ‘this shows what the weather was like’, when I come back to the note later I’ll miss my own added subtext that would have otherwise brought clarity. The comment with the subtext included might be ‘this shows what the weather was like, specifically I’m looking at the first sentence which links to…’

It’s a certain sort of thoroughness.

Something I find endlessly fascinating the thought that if you written the piece – review in my case, sometimes another type of post, but rarely – at a slightly different time, you might or probably would have written it differently. I feel this most when I’m happy with the finished piece, when I’ve been surprised by the routes my thoughts took during writing flurries, which can happen regardless of whether I was following a plan – that all makes sense. What might you have written if you’d started an hour prior to the one you did? What might you have focused on then? What might you have lost or gained in pausing as you did to get a coffee? I find I tend to feel that I wouldn’t have done so well but there’s always that thought – if I’m happy with what I did write, how much happier might have I been if I’d written it earlier or later?

(When I went back to my older post after writing this, I realise these thoughts have been with me for a very long time. It’s a shame that, except for fiction, we’ll never be able to really look into it. There’s a reason Sliding Doors is so well known.)

What is your process like in this regard, no matter what you write (or compose or paint, and so on)?



July 8, 2019, 9:42 pm

When I write or work on projects, I always hope for a chance to come back and review things later with a fresh eye. At the very least, I catch errors… but sometimes the time away gives me new insight.


September 6, 2019, 10:12 am

Kelly: Yes – that’s the best part of waiting. So long as it’s not too far away from the original time spent it works really well.



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