The Rewrite

The Rewrite

The sign of a good writer is their willingness to rewrite their work.

This is to say: we are among horrible writers.

My first drafts are crap. So are yours, they all are. Throughout the course of human history, first drafts haven't improved much. However, they have managed to make it to publication much easier.

I am currently wrapping up a client project where I am in an editorial role for a handful of writers. They submit work, I review it, determine what gets paid for and winds up on their Wordpress site.

A few times, I asked to have something "rewritten." The writer's first question is always: "Which part?"

To which I'd say: "The whole thing. Just rewrite it."

Then they'd ask: "but why?"

Until the tenth grade, I had to rewrite all of my papers by hand: five, ten pages on wide-ruled sheets with pen or pencil. I wrote long papers very slowly, picking out each word carefully, spelling with great accuracy, knowing a single error meant I had to start a page over.

Every argument was wrought, everything written with precision. The last thing you wanted written on the top of the page, in deep-red ink, was a fat "Rewrite."

It meant you had to start over, correct all of the highlighted errors. It meant your weekend was toast; it meant more hours at the desk. No edits, just rewrites.

With high school came the computer lab. Those who mastered typing early had no problem with rewrites. A handful of changes in a tight 20 minutes and your papers jumped two grade levels. Things were easier, which might be the start of the problem.

Those who write for the web today can't imagine a case for rewriting. They can't imagine an editor saying "the whole thing is kinda flat, it kinda sucks" is unimaginable. Rewriting forces them to read it as I had, as the audience would have, and to try it again.

Most of the time, they just bailed on the project and I never heard back from them.

I guess I have a lot of nerve, asking for what I ask for.

The point of editing or writing isn't to "fix" something to have it pass an arbitrary rubric - it is to attempt to take the same idea in a new direction, or add new ideas to the old direction. The point of writing is to express great ideas in a way they can be shared and deconstructed and argued over.

Then again, some of us are just in the business of filling pages.

Give it a shot - let the same words dance around your head a little longer and see where it takes you. 100% of the time you are going to be in a better place.

Beautiful Education

Beautiful Education