Stop Proofreading, or, How I Learned to Liberate Myself From the Tyranny of Redundancy
Cutting corners like a pro
Every school year, it was inevitable. We had to run the mile in gym class.
I hated this tradition. I was slow and doughy and noncompetitive and didn’t care. Running was stupid. I’d rather create art projects with my friends.
However, what I did appreciate about the mile run were the orange cones that marked the perimeter of the track. Because if you paced yourself strategically, you could cut corners to increase your overall time. Not by much. Maybe a few seconds per lap. But to me, that was a powerful lesson. It challenged me to question the boundaries of a given task. It trained me to discern which corners were worth cutting. And it forced me to find ways to reduce labor intensity at every opportunity.
That’s not just a lesson for running, that’s a mindset for running an enterprise. Once you’ve been around the block a few times, you quickly realize that the orange cones of life don’t care if you cut them. They’re not federal laws, their suggestions. And nobody is going to care or even notice if you do.
Here’s a prime example. The biggest difference between publishing my first book and publishing my thirtieth book is the number of corners I was willing to cut in the production process. In fact, when I reflect on the amount of time and energy and money I spent conducting in depth historical research, carefully thinking through every grammatical detail, making laborious proofreads, waiting for peer editor feedback, groveling for cover blurbs, registering the book with the government, writing pointless press releases, sending out review copies, negotiating with retail distributors, doing humiliating book signings, it’s amazing any of the books actually shipped. I’m almost embarrassed about the labor intensity at which I used to operate.
But it all goes back to permission. Liberating yourself from the tyranny of redundancy. Circumventing as many orange cones as you can.
Remember, it’s not about being cool enough not to care, it’s about being discerning enough not to dwell.
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