Malcolm Gladwell: put it down and walk away

To write well, you have to rewrite. To rewrite well, you need perspective. To gain perspective, you need to put it down and walk away.

So says Malcolm Gladwell in his course on Masterclass.

It is invariably the case for anyone writing anything of any length or value that as you approach the end of the process you will lose all perspective on what you’ve done. You’re too close to it. You don’t see the flaws in it.

Which is why the number one piece of advice I give people who are writing something is that as they approach the end, if they can, they should put whatever they’re writing aside, walk away, and don’t think about it or look at it for as long as possible. In a perfect world it would be weeks, or months.

And when they return to it they’ll see it in an entirely new way. Perspective is your friend, and the only way to gain perspective is time.

I can sit and read something for the first time in three months and know instantly what’s wrong with it. Just because now I’m reading it like a critic would. It’s not even my work anymore. It was done by some guy I barely remember — three months ago Malcolm. And you can’t do that when you’re reading the work that you just were writing yesterday.