“Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing down on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually an excuse for not going on.”
Well, John is surely a guy who knows a thing or two about writing, so this bit of wisdom might be worth pondering. Could it really be true that rewriting while you’re pulling together a draft is just “an excuse for not going on” — maybe because you’re stuck and confused and don’t know where you want to go? Mmmm….this is definitely something to think about.
Let’s face it: first drafts can be tricky. Some of us breeze through a first go-round and then end up doing massive revisions. Others fuss and tinker their way through a first pass only to find their prose sagging because they’ve sucked all the juice out.
In A Writer’s Coach, Jack Hart notes that research by two Harvard psychologists, Howard and Barton, actually supports a “Hyde/Jekyll, fast-slow approach to drafting and editing.” According to their findings, drafting involves, “intuition, imagination, risk-taking, a headlong plunge down new corridors of thought and experience.” Once a draft is down on paper, only then is it time for “cool detachment, doubt, skepticism, testing,” — all the qualities needed for rigorous, polished editing.
Most writers and observers alike would probably agree that too much self-editing and self-criticism during the draft stage can drain confidence and even short-circuit our creative unconscious. For many writers, the best approach seems to be “roughing out a first draft” and then going back and amplifying, cutting, fine-tuning, and polishing.
One editor compared writing to carpentry. He pointed out that when a carpenter is building a piece of furniture, he or she doesn’t make one side and perfect it, then make another side and perfect that one. Instead, the whole frame is built and then adjustments and finishing touches are made. Thinking of writing a draft as building a frame makes sense, doesn’t it?
I guess the main thing to remember here is momentum: narrative drive, forward motion, energy. It’s the energy on the page that really engages our readers. Anything that lets that energy flow freely is useful; anything that impedes it is something we want to eliminate. Sounds deceptively easy, I know, but it’s something to strive for. Write on!