Thursday, April 02, 2009

An Important thing to remember about writing: Patience

There is nothing new or special about feeling it necessary to apologize when a writer hands a new piece of work to a friend or fellow writer. We all have that impulse initially. What we read "out there" is polished, professional, perfect, and we're NOT. Or at least that's how we think when we are new.

The higher one's standards are the more difficult and treacherous the terrain. There's only one way to deal with the universal problem of being embarrassed and humiliated by our own inability to get something we're proud of in a short period of time.

Patience: Have faith in the process because it is a process. None of us have the gift of words flowing perfectly the first time through the tips of our fingers.

We need to let go of that expectation and tell ourselves: This draft is just fine right now. I'll fix it later. Just get what's coming NOW down now and worry about making it better the next time through. You see, THE NEXT TIME THROUGH, AND THE TIME AFTER THAT, AND THE TIME AFTER THAT, AND THE TIME AFTER THAT, OVER AND OVER again is what makes a piece finally not be embarrassing and humiliating to ourselves.

The willingness to go back and look our "mistakes" up and down and fix them, refine them, reedit them, spell check them, etc. that's the path that leads to writing bliss.

Writing is a Process. The rough draft is about content...making it up.The second draft is about structure...making sense.The third draft is about language...making it clear.The fourth draft is about perfection...making it publishable.And that's just the big drafts, not counting all the little drafts in between.

As Malcolm Gladwell states in his book, Outliers, it takes over 10,000 hours to be come an expert so there's no reason in the world to apologize that you haven't reached perfection yet.

And if that doesn't make the point, then hears what Sean Lovelace put on his blog today after seeing David Sedaris at a reading:

Sedaris read only works-in-progress. In fact, he had just written many of these drafts, and explained that giving readings is how he works and reworks material. He actually stood there with a pencil line-editing the pages as he read aloud. Very cool, and I hope my students noticed the process. I also hope they heard
him say, “My essays need about 12 revisions. I usually give revision #9 to my editor.”




And you asked for nachos, Sean? They're not only for snacks anymore.

3 comments:

Madeline said...

Hey, Gay - I like this post, especially the part about the different revisions. I do some form of that myself but I like the way you spelled it out.

sylvia said...

Haha, I have the issue that Sedaris describes: I always show stuff off too early.

It's hard to remind myself that it's ok if it's not "right" at the start and to keep at it until it is.

Erin said...

Great post! Definitely something all writers should remember.