Friday, August 5, 2011

Paradigm Shift

Talking recently to an acquaintance who had just written an article. In the course of the conversation he said something along the lines of: "I always enjoy writing WHILE I'm writing, but later when I look at what I've done it looks stupid. I start second guessing myself hating what I've done, and that spoils everything for me."

Time for a paradigm shift, my friend!

Don't throw down your first draft and think, "Man, this really sucks. I should never write again." No! The aftermath, as you call it, isn't a time for self-loathing. It's a gift! It's a second chance!

The second draft is your opportunity to say, "OK, that's a start (good start, bad, indifferent, doesn't matter. It's a start.) Now what can I do to make this EVEN BETTER?"

It's an unbending, unavoidable fact of life. NOBODY'S first draft is good enough. Even if it's pretty good, it can be better, and that means it isn't good enough. My first draft isn't good enough. Yours isn't. Dave Barry's and Neil Gaiman's aren't. Not even Bill Shakespeare's first draft was good enough. And he didn't have the luxury of a word processor to fix his. It was back to the quill and inkpot for him.

That doesn't mean that no one should ever write. On the contrary, it means writing is one of the more forgiving of the creative arts.

When you cook, if you make a mistake there's no going back. You've blown it. You eat the burned meal or you get out a box of mac and cheese. When you're a sculptor and you slip, there ain't no gluing that chunk of marble back to where the horse's tail was supposed to be. It's gone, baby. Painters can slop more paint over their mistakes, but they can't make them go away in the way hitting the delete key can.

Actors, and singers and dancers can practice and practice and practice, but if they make a mistake in performance the audience sees it in all its gory glory.

But when you make a mistake writing, no problem. First of all, it's private. No one will ever see one word you've written unless you want them to. So that's a start. One of my all-time favorite phrases is "I'll fix that in the rewrite." Aaahhh! God, I LOVE that phrase.

After all, that's what rewrites are for. The chance to make it closer and closer to perfect. Shit, even God didn't get it all right the first time. He needed six days.

No comments:

Post a Comment