Writing is Recursive

November 14, 2013, 1:03 am

WRITING IS RECURSIVE – Writing requires that we repeatedly apply function to our work. There’s no two ways about it. Writing is hard work. Seldom does it come out right on the first try, or even the second try, or even the third try. This point cannot be stressed enough: the quality of your writing is a direct reflection of the number of times you work on it. In other words, the more times you touch your work, the better it will be. I firmly believe this.

Other than a few outliers who would say differently, most professional writers will absolutely say that writing is rewriting. There are numerous books written on this topic alone. Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird discusses this in her chapter Sh*&% First Drafts. Here she says that it is a misconception that writers sit down and churn out beautiful prose. Every writer has the obligatory starting point of a terrible first draft. If you allow yourself to dismiss your perfectionism, and grant yourself permission to “go big” and perhaps even “go sloppy” in that first draft, your creative juices will flow and you’ll provide yourself with a grand starting point.

Perfectionism comes later. And that’s the essence of rewriting. And rewriting.

The thought that you must rework and rework your same piece of writing sounds like pure drudgery, but it isn’t. There is great satisfaction in each and every draft. I have a theory about the brain: it’s stingy in what it gives us and when. I don’t know why the brain doesn’t give us everything we want the first time we sit down, but it doesn’t. Each day it delivers a little more—a puzzle piece here, a puzzle piece there. Ultimately, after you’ve reworked a piece—whether it is an entire passage or just a sentence—it’s almost like magic. It’s better because of all your reworking, and there’s nothing more satisfying than reading your own work when it’s written well. So the work is required, but it’s satisfying work, akin to building something.

Rather than dreading another day of rewriting, open up to it and marvel in the new material that’s provided to you each and every day.

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