And after absorbing Anne Lamott’s classic book on writing, Bird by Bird, I gave myself permission to write really rotten rough drafts as well.
So Now What?
Today I was reading a couple short chapters in writers in the Spirit by Carol Rottman. Something she said struck an inner chord with me, even though it isn’t actually what I believe. But it’s stayed with me all day, and I’m beginning to wonder. (And I’d like your reactions to it.)
First she talked about how writers used to write: slowly, on paper using a pen or pencil, thoughtfully. That regimen went out the window with the introduction of typewriters, although typing still required white liquid to cover typos. The computer came along and even eliminated messy corrections, and writers were encouraged to create right on the screen. Later, fixing and revising would be a snap.
Then Ms. Rottman said: “There may be a downside to easy writing on computers. More of us are writing, but most are not writing very well. I speak also of myself: I have become a sloppy typist and sometimes, I fear, a sloppy thinker. Knowing how easily words can be changed or rearranged, I don’t give my whole self to the first draft. I am less careful, thoughtful, and creative than I plan to be in the end product. Where once my internal editor ruled, inhibiting all but the choicest words and phrases, the antiperfectionist has muscled in, convincing me that anything will do.”
I know I am the same way, chanting “just get it down, just get it down” when hurrying through a rough draft. I’m beginning to wonder how wise all that hurrying is.
Is Writing Speed Everything?
Later she adds:
“Those imperfect first drafts need the clear thought of a devoted writer if they are to be salvaged by revisions. The creative front end of writing is our first drive for truth-telling. Authentic. Passionate. Perceptive. Not perfectly formed but potent.”
In the interest of not letting our internal editor stop us in our writing tracks, have we perhaps shut her up too much? What do you think? Where’s the balance between slow enough writing to capture what you want to say–and enough speed to build momentum and get the story down?
There are no right answers here. What has your own experience been?