Why writing is hard

Why is writing the first draft hard?

Because it’s like trying to spin mist.  You know the perfect book is in here somewhere.  You sometimes have glimpses of it, but it’s like a Platonic Ideal – you can never achieve it in real life.  Plus, the book you want to write is nebulous.  Every sentence, every word, could be something different.  Could be something better, maybe, if you only thought longer and harder about it.  Every time you write a sentence, how do you know you’re not choosing the wrong one?  How do you know the book wouldn’t be better if you did something different at that point?

All the ghosts of other possibilities are there, in the mental fog, waiting to be pulled out, and you get something but you can never be sure you couldn’t have got something better if you’d looked harder.

Why are second drafts hard?

Because they’re like chiseling a marble statue.  This time you’ve got something, and it’s solid and it has the weight of something that’s real.  So now you’re worried that if you remove that bit, or try to add something there, you’ll ruin what you’ve already got.  The shape looks inevitable.  The words are already there, and if you knock some of them away, or change them, are you going to leave a scar?  Or worse, are you going to crack the whole thing open beyond the possibility of repair?

I wonder how long it’s going to take me to realize that words are neither mist nor stone?  They’re infinitely malleable.  I really ought to be less scared of them by now.

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Elle Parker
14 years ago

Neat post! I like "trying to spin mist". I always think of that second draft as building a house of cards – if I touch the wrong bit, the whole thing is going to come crashing down.

Elle Parker

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