Make time to read your past work.

At emdash, we refresh our portfolio every few months. We add latest work, we sometimes (if rarely) remove older work. In the process, I end up reading a lot of what we’ve written lately. I often find this an excellent informal review exercise.

It helps me read my work from a distance — now that it has been written, published and paid for, there is no pressure around it.

With time having gone, I’m able to evaluate if what I had written was ‘right for the customer’, away from the pressures of what the customer asked for.

I’m also able to wonder if I’m really proud of it for its own self, and not as a function of the restrictions. You know when we write and file something, we often tell ourselves, “given the tight deadline and lack of access, I am proud of my work.” In retrospect, without the givens, I get to explore whether I am still proud of it.

In my experience, I haven’t found much grammatical errors, bad sentences or anything that makes me instinctively cringe (though, they happen too). I guess the multiple reviews we have eliminates these things. But I often find that there are two kinds of work that are excellent:

  1. Where the client is closely involved in the work and shapes the narrative we write.

  2. Where we’ve worked with the client long enough that we know what they and their customers need.

This knowledge shapes how we approach future projects. It sparks ideas for what we need to do to make all our work excellent. From time to time, set aside a few hours to read your work from the last 3-6 months. You can learn a lot from it. And who knows, you can even feel pleasantly surprised by it.