“Don’t tear up the page and start over again when you write a bad line — try to write your way out of it. Make mistakes and plunge on…Writing is a means of discovery, always.”
“I have rewritten — often several times — every word I have ever published. My pencils outlast their erasers.”
One of the most generous and helpful gifts that wonderful writers can give us is the permission to fail, to flop, to write something that’s lousy and crummy — and then fix it, improve it, brighten it, juice it up.
Taking a dull sentence and making it shine — sparkling it up with a sprightlier verb or an arresting adjective — often, that’s what excites me about writing. It can be so freeing and enlivening to play with ideas and words: we can push them and pull them, stretch them and squeeze them until they come as close as possible to saying what we want to say. Writing is like working with clay or Play Doh.
Just recently, I received a critique from an agent. She reviewed the opening of my YA novel and zeroed in on some weaknesses. I’ve rewritten the first two pages many times by now and yet, based on her review, there’s definitely room for improvement. Earlier in my writing career, I would have been bummed by my mistakes — one of which was pretty glaring — but now I feel energized. I feel challenged by the need to make my first few paragraphs stronger and more compelling to the reader.
Let’s dump the mistaken idea that mistakes are bad and that a bout of lousy writing means we’re lousy writers. Let’s take Garrison’s advice: “Make mistakes and plunge on.” Hey, if Nabokov has rewritten every word he’s ever published several times, well then, so can we!