When I first caught the creative writing bug in junior high school, I had a lot of wrong ideas about writing. One was that every word I put down needed to be the perfect word on the first try. Needless to say, it was slow going.
I’m not sure why I held that belief. Maybe I thought picking the right word on the first try saved me the time of going back several more times to edit. Maybe I was terrified of failure, or looking foolish. Whatever the reason, the phase didn’t last. My mom (and my English teacher; I was homeschooled) began picking apart my essays, proving that the perfectly crafted first-draft sentence definitely wasn’t.
I’ve done a 180 since then. Now, I believe the way I write a sentence couldn’t possibly be the way I want it (I’ve already deleted this sentence a few times). Sometimes this troubles me. I don’t want to spend time drafting a sentence I’ll surely delete. But I’ve figured out the reason for it:
I’m always an editor, even when I’m writing.
I can’t even begin to think about structure or style until I’ve thrown my haphazard musings onto the page, so I have an idea of what I’m working with. I’ve been known to write two thousand words while crafting a one-thousand-word article—many of which get rewritten again.
How can I choose the best word or phrase without the possible options in front of me? What better way to write a good sentence than to correct a bad one? Why take the time to stop and think of the right word when other ideas are crowding my brain, waiting to be let out?
It’s a commonly misattributed quote that carving a sculpture is simply taking a block of stone and cutting away everything that doesn’t look like the final product. If that’s true, then writing is like first expelling a rough chunk of stone from your brain, and then going to work on it with the carving tools. The polish cannot possibly come before the substance.
Just remember: Your first draft is only a block of stone, nothing pretty to look at. You and your editor will get to carve it into the work of art it will someday be.
*For the regular blog follower: I realize I never actually delivered my thoughts about The Last Jedi. I have yet to see it twice and hone my opinions about it, though that right there should tell you more about how I felt about it than any article.