The last few days I’ve worked on revisions in Google Docs and Highland 2 for different projects.

You get an expected word salad on your screen when collaborating on a virtual document that tracks changes. It takes a few extra moments to parse what you’ve actually written. Small changes can have outsized influence, interfering with the legibility of a sentence or paragraph. But I can get past that pretty quickly.

Even when the markup is more subtle, like the revision mode in Highland, there’s a false sense of security that comes from looking at something that shows you what you’ve changed.

“Oh, I already revised there. It’s probably solid enough.”

When I used to print drafts out and mark them up in pencil before heading back to the keyboard, the friction of looking between two separate documents made me re-evaluate every change. I always found more tweaks and changes I wanted to make.

I’m not about to call for abolishing digital revision tracking — It makes remote collaboration possible.

Still, additional friction helps me slow down and make sure I haven’t missed an opportunity to put my best work forward. I appreciate that.

Looking for better instead of making better

Yesterday, someone who just met me answered a question by asking “Have been told you overthink things?” It was a pretty spot-on reading.

This morning, I came across this passage:

From the point of view of Samaya, we could say that looking for alternatives is the only thing that keeps us from realizing that we’re already in a sacred world. Looking for alternatives—better sights than we see, better sounds than we hear, a better mind than we have—keeps us from realizing that we could stand with pride in the middle of our life and realize it’s a sacred mandala. We have such a deep tendency to want to squirm out of it, like a beetle on a pin: we squirm and try to get away from just being on the dot.

Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart

This really clicks when you’re the kind of person who has a setup for managing your to-dos, but keep Googling ways you might optimize or refine it with one more trick.

Or you’ve been stuck trying to finish a draft of something you’re writing, because you think it could be better if you spent a little more time on the thinking about the writing instead of the writing.

That pernicious idea that you must keep looking and contemplating for a better way to do things before the doing, instead of treating the doing as the path to better. That the doing is good enough.

It’s something I remind students of, and have to remind myself of frequently: You can’t revise what you haven’t written. Searching for better and ruminating is like trying to write the third draft of a blank page.

I must remind myself of this more often.