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Embrace the Re-write

I've been struggling with publishing again. Lots of time spent thinking and doodling and planning but nothing moving further than a quick first draft stage.

When this happens, regardless of the medium, I know it's my perfectionist getting the upper hand. He starts whispering, don't post just for the sake of it, make it worthwhile, stop shipping junk. And I listen.

As I get stronger, I can brush off the accusations of writing junk. But then I start to revel in the second draft. I'll write lots and lots of first drafts in my notebook but never sit down and make a second, publishable draft out of any of them.

But I took away some inspiration yesterday from two unrelated sources. Both shone a light on my hiding.

Arsenal, Arsenal, Every Day #

Arsenal finished their Premier League season yesterday with a win over Everton. They finished second in the league, right on the heels of the state owned super-club Manchester City. I haven't felt such a connection with the Gunners in years.

As usual, I read all about the game and the aftermath on Arseblog. I've been reading Andrew's blog for years. Decades. He's been writing a daily blog post about Arsenal since 2002. Every day for 22 years. And I've been reading the blog since at least 2005.

Do anything for 20+ years and it gets bigger. Andrew has a team now, a news channel, weekly columnists, a specialist who covers the Arsenal Women, and a podcast with nearly 800 weekly episodes and over 500 'extra' episodes.

The thing about Arseblog is that he writes a post every single day. Even on the off days. Even in the off season. A passionate, informative, funny post every day since 2002.

He writes a post during the international breaks. When the team is on holiday. There's always something to talk about. I'm always eager to read what's on his mind, even on the dull days. Especially the dull days. And I'm not even one of the hundreds of 'insiders' who are really part of his community of Gooners.

Do anything 7000 times and there will be lots and lots of duds. But he posts them anyway. And I couldn't find a dud if I spent an hour trying. There is a lesson here.

A Gold Medal, 10 years in the making #

The second spark was a seminar by Jean Wang about exhibiting thematic stamp collections. What can I say, I'm into it.

Jean is a hematologist from Toronto and is also one of the top philatelists (stamp collectors) in North America. She's built a world class display of stamps, letters, postmarks and other items that all have something to do with blood and its medical uses, and she arranges these items to tell the story of blood in a myriad of ways.

I'm talking about 80 pages of material, hand picked over many years and continually arranged and rearranged to perfectly tell the story she wants to tell. And then she's willing to send these treasures around the world to be judged, critiqued and displayed for thousands of spectators. Heady stuff.

Now, Jean's an energetic and entertaining speaker, especially in the stamp world, so I was always going to be impressed by her talk. But what really got me is that she's been tweaking and improving her exhibit for over 10 years now. And the best thing is she's been documenting her progress on one of the hobby discussion forums the entire time.

Jean first showed her collection at a Toronto show in 2014 and back then, it was already an impressive display. She received an excellent 'novice' award and was encouraged to keep going. I admit that when I look at those first pages, I'm already blown away. Her first draft is better than anything I've done in the hobby.

But she kept at it, kept tweaking, replacing an item, re-writing a page or two, and exhibiting at larger and larger shows. She kept mining that same vein of inspiration, over and over, every time scoring more points and getting bigger awards.

At this point, she's likely completely re-written every page three times. And her reward? She scored high enough at an international show that she is 'allowed' to add another 48 pages to her exhibit! Much, much more re-writing is ahead and she is happy as all get out.

Embrace the re-write #

That's what I've learned from both these stories. I've been struggling with my stamp collection for four years now, spending more time thinking and 'planning' but little time actually making pages. I've been too worried about re-writes. But Jean's experience taught me that re-writes mean things are going well. I'm making progress. My collection is getting better.

And Arseblog? Andrew doesn't re-write old posts. He just keeps moving forward. There will be another match on Saturday, where he can describe the thrill or despair of watching the Arsenal. There will be another interminable Interlull, where the Gunners aren't playing, so he'll have another chance to fully express the boredom that comes from not having our team in our lives. He gets another swing every single day.

I'll be spending more time at the keyboard this week. Time to form something coherent from all my notes. Not perfect. But good enough for this version.

PS - here's Jean's stamp talk. It's one of the more accessible talks about this grand old hobby.