Monday, June 8, 2009

Just let it out

Writing is rewriting.

No need to think about style and elegance, not at first. Just write.

Write the first draft with your heart, refine it later with your head.

It's already inside you, like Michelangelo's David was already inside the marble. Let it out.

It was Ernest Hemingway who said writing is rewriting. Those of you who have read Hemingway know how succinct he could be. At times, perhaps too much so. But then, he was his own worst critic, finally resorting to a shotgun when liquor proved too slow.

The late George Plimpton became famous for his interviews and for his first-hand experience reports. In an interview with Ernest Hemingway, the famous author mentioned that he had rewritten the ending to "A Farewell to Arms" 39 times. When Plimpton asked him why so many times, Hemingway responded simply that he wanted to get the words right.

I can't remember ever having rewritten anything 39 times, but neither does anything I write ever appear in the original form.

A century or so ago I once worked for a couple of years at a small radio station, and like the other sales staff had to churn out copy under a deadline gun. So I did learn to write things in my head as I typed and make it come out right the first time. Or at least acceptably right for a radio commercial, containing just the right number of cliches to make it come out to exactly 30 seconds. If one wanted his stuff produced that evening, one learned to write fast and get on with the next 30 seconds of forgettable drivel. But that kind of crap writing makes for pretty weak story lines.

I no longer want to write things that will make you have an irresistible impulse to run out and buy new carpet or eat at certain restaurants, and so I don't write like that anymore. I find I have become more like Papa Hemingway. Minus the shotgun, of course.

Writing is rewriting.


  1. But! The way you write makes me want to write, so your still sort of a salesman in that aspect.. :)

  2. So that's how to do it! As Lady Sarcasm says, you are still a salesman. :) You make it all sound so simple. My problem is by the umpty thump pass, if the truth be known probably the second pass, the subject loses its sparkle for me.

  3. @Lady - Thank you. I like what you write, too. I wish I could talk you into writing more short stories. Maybe you are and are just hiding them from me. :) I'm glad you stopped by.

    @Ken - Nice to see you again too, Ken. I learn a lot by reading your stuff.

    @A. - Simple? Of course it is simple if you have something to say. You're a photographer. You don't have to force yourself to take photos do you? If writing isn't a treat, like eating chocolate cake, then don't do it. Do what you love. ("... and the money will follow." Heh. I think that is the title of a self-help book I once read. :)

    But who am I to be giving YOU advice? - You write in FRENCH, for crissakes. (But don't tell me you don't rewrite when you do.)

  4. What I like about "blog" writing is that you can keep it simple and off the cuff at times and still be interesting. I must say I do read it over a few times to "tweak" them a bit!

  5. I hate the whole rewriting thing.

    Actually, it's the re-reading to make sure there are no typos or whatever. It makes my eyes cross.

    I'm about to give up and just be like 90% of the people on the internet and not care about spelling or grammar.

    HA! As if.

    That would keep me up at night. It is a freeing thought, though.

  6. Writing is re-writing, but blogging is just blogging.

  7. I have to admit, on comments and blog posts, I tend to write stream of consciousness so I do get errors or clunky lines.

    But, when I'm writing fiction, I usually rewrite and rewrite, refine and polish, multiple times.

    However, I have two short stories and some poems in high school where what I was writing was coming out at the same rate it formed in my head, almost like I was channeling it. And those came out relatively perfectly. I've never done any be the most minor tweaks to those and they remain my favorite work.

    I'm not sure there's one way of writing, actually. I think there's almost always a level of craft in addition to talent, but sometimes, I think, you can tap into something incredible you didn't even know you had.

  8. @Frostygirl - Your blog shows that you care how it looks.:)

    For me, I was talking not only about blogs, but other writing as well. I will admit that a lot of my blog posts are not so well "rewritten". :)

    I hope you are doing fine.

    @Angelika - Awwwwwww! And how terrible if it kept you up all night. That's a joke, right? :)

    @Descartes - Or, if you steal ideas from other blogs like I do, blogging could be reblogging. :)

    @Stephanie B - Well, I mainly meant it is important that we get that idea down on paper before it flits away, and then flesh it out later. Does the same thing hold true with writing fiction? I mean, does one usually just write the scene, including some initial dialog, that is in one's head, and then go back later and refine it? I don't mean grammar and spelling so much as I mean the actual writing of the ideas.

    When I do that, other things always occur to me as I edit and more often than not things get added and subtracted. But I don't write fiction and really don't know how. God, how hokey would I sound with no experience! I will write you guys a fictional story sometime just to give you a laugh. It will sound like a fifth-grader probably! :)

  9. yer blog is kooooooooool !!!!!



Related Posts with Thumbnails