I wrote about “Writing” earlier on in this series. In this iteration, I want to cover an aspect I did not delve deeper into then. It is what I term “iterative writing” – or iterating, for short. It is the secret of my prolific blog posting through much of the past two decades. Here is what I wrote previously: “I am writing all the time – I find I think better when I am with my notebook and pen. My notebook and pen are always with me. The mind is always at work. I am not much for meditation. My equivalent of meditation is sitting in a place with my notebook and letting the thoughts flow. My book becomes a mirror into my mind. I don’t worry about organising my thoughts when I am writing – there is always time to do that later.” I hinted at my process of writing towards the end: “Many times, I end up just rewriting old ideas. There is nothing that repetition will not improve. As Heraclitus put it, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” It is never exactly the same idea, and we are also not the same. I may rarely look up older notes but the slow evolution and natural selection of ideas is visible in my writings.”
Since I love coining new words (they always catch attention – like “proficorn”), I decided that this process of writing and iteratively improving it needed a new word. The word may be new, but the process is not. As ChatGPT puts it, “Iterative writing is a writing process where you revise and improve your work in multiple cycles or drafts. This approach allows you to refine your writing by making changes and additions until you are satisfied with the final product. The key to successful iterative writing is to approach it with a growth mindset, meaning you should be open to feedback and willing to revise your work.”
For me, iterating is about writing, making public my ideas via my blog, and then working to them better through times to come. I don’t worry about perfection in the first go. Since I am writing for myself, I like to put the ideas out there, then share and discuss with others, and think through improvements via conversations and feedback. If I don’t write, then I cannot get inputs and criticism – and without these, I cannot refine my ideas and writings. My approach thus is to create a ‘permalink’ that I can send to others so they can comment and challenge. My determination to ensure one post daily also helps; I don’t wait for the ideal essay – instead I put it out there knowing fully well that I will make a better version in the future. This is how many of the essays in my Marketing and India series have come about.
Many people I have spoken to want to write but for some reason are afraid. I tell them, “Forget what others think. Write for yourself, but do so on a public medium. Don’t hesitate to share. Once you are done with the first version, you will start thinking about a newer, better version. Make this iterative writing process public because otherwise the thoughts stay private and don’t improve.”
Iteriting also needs iterative thinking and presenting. I come up with ideas, write and then also make them into presentations. I then see which words and phrases catch attention, and then work on making them better. It is thus an evolutionary process. The only way to make it work is to not be embarrassed by one’s early ideas. Only out of these will the better ones emerge over time.
My advice: try it out. Take a few ideas you are passionate about and start writing. See if you commit to one new post daily – this will create the discipline of reading-thinking-writing, which is the key to iterating and creating better. It is the way innovations come about. It is the way writing can also be done.