Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Writing is Rewriting

So I was editing again the other day, as I do. In fact, I was editing something I had already edited several times and had even sent to some possible magazines for publication. In short, I was happy with my finished product.
Then I started looking at it for another project. And changed a word here. And a phrase there. And I realized - I'm editing this again!!!!! Wasn't I done yet?
The truth is, I don't think we ever truly "finish" editing, because as the interpreters of the visions we create, we somehow find other ways to express an idea, a moment, a detail, or a completely new inspiration. Some of these new ways are truly innovative while some are simply hackneyed - and that is okay. Part of the writing process is understanding why something does and does not work. This means - yes, I'm saying it - editing!
First drafts are wonderful. They give the writer a sense of accomplishment, of a hurdle surpassed, of a blockade surmounted. They are the product of an exhausting amount of time (an hour or a year) spent immersed in the creative process, using a string of letters to form into words and weave together in a tapestry  unlike any other.
Or so we hope.
And because we hope, we also fear. What if we are wrong? What if it's not as brilliant as we thought it was in our heads when we were writing? What if it's a disaster? What if we - accidentally, subconsciously - wrote a story that is just like our favorite author's, immediately recognizable as a plagiarism? What then?! Do we just give up?
The simple answer is - yes. Yes because it's easy.
But we don't write because it's easy.
Thus, the better answer is - no. We write again. That story, another story, an image or a memory or a series of disconnected words. It doesn't really matter what we write, but that we keep doing it. At some point, your story will start to emerge into a recognizable first or second or fifteenth draft. But it will be there, extant, irrefutable evidence of your desire to create using words.
It's only when we learn the value of re-writing that we understand that we are not any less of a writer if our story wasn't perfect the first time out. What in life is? Everyone works at his or her chosen art or sport or simple passion, and it is guaranteed that none of them were "perfect" the first time they tried. Why then should we, as writers, putting down a particular story for the first time, believe that we must be? Why do we chastise ourselves so much? 
The truth is, re-writing makes a story better. Not because your first idea was not perfect, but because you now have a place to begin refining your characters and plot. Does that invalidate the "goodness" you perceived your first draft to be? Absolutely not. But by re-writing, you are giving yourself a chance to take your good idea and make it into a great one. 
And every now and again, if you realize that your "good" idea is not so good after all, you are giving yourself a second chance to be better.
Isn't that the goal of any writer? To give his or audience the best story possible?
So I will re-write this here: you are not a failure if your first draft is not perfect. And you are not perfect on your first draft. And that is as it should be.
You are your own second chance. Write and write again. That's the only way to find not just the right words, but the best ones. 

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