Why the second approach to writing always seems best

Writing a planAlthough I'm making progress, I still haven't settled on a stable writing method. One of my problems has always been that whichever approach I tried first for a given piece of writing, it would always seem unsatisfactory, and switching to another for the re-write would give better results. So, for instance, take the two approaches of careful planning on the one hand, versus diving into writing itself on the other. I might start one piece with careful planning, collecting all my material and arranging it in order before writing anything; after a while, though, I seem at a dead end, and put my plan aside to simply write what I'm thinking of. For the next piece, I start by just writing; but several pages later, the writing is off track and I'm no longer sure what I'm saying. I then turn away from the writing and think about the structure and plan of the argument, and again make better progress. This process of alternating between two (or rotating between multiple) different approaches can go on indefinitely.

It only occurred to me today (when, appropriately enough, preparing for a research methods talk on statistical methods) why this confusing process occurs, in which the method you try second always seems best, no matter what it or the first method are. Whatever you do first, it clarifies and organizes your thinking about what you have to write; so the method you try second naturally comes more easily than it would have if it, instead, had been first. So even if A is actually a better preparatory method than B, nevertheless working in the order AB (say, planning then writing, or conversely, writing then planning), B will often seem more fluent, whatever B is.

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