There are some blogs I just never get enough of… one of them is Cristian Mihai’s blog. He’s a writer, has a few books (and I think he’s got at least one in paperback that he posted about recently), and what he has to say – almost without fail – catches my attention. The parallels between the process he was talking about in Writing Is Rewriting and discussions at websites like the Force Academy are easy to see, and the former casts the process of discussion in a simple, clear way. It’s nothing stunning or new, but it does provide a very succint and useful way of looking at how we go about communicating with each other. For instance…
“When I was young I used to loathe having to rewrite my stories. So much that sometimes I didn’t even want to read them. Because you see, I wrote mostly during the moments of intense inspiration, when everything I wrote seemed perfect. And when I read over the stories, I found many mistakes, many things to change. Somehow, the magic was gone.”
This reminds me of how I tend to look at things when my activity is scarce and posts are few and far between. It gradually starts to seem that not everything is said or done par excellence, and then it begins to feel to daunting to make everything as excellent as I want it to be and my efforts tapper off into oblivion. I don’t usually begin to (re)build momentum until I’m inspired to. I have to say that at first, it occured to me that this apparent need for inspiration might mean I’m completely dependent on external sources for my drive, ambitions, and passion. But it didn’t take me long to decide that my initial conclusion was bullshit.
If passion is that yearning to connect, to reach out and merge with something, some part of the world or universe, then having a need to seek out sources that stoke this yeazning sure makes it seem like I’m reliant on external sources of inspiration. At first glance, anyways. But the truth is that whether I find inspiration, something that fans the flames of my passion, is dependent on my ability and success in searching out, finding, and exploiting that which inspires me. Self-reliance and personal strength isn’t moot, it’s paramount to achieving any sort of enjoyment or fulfillment. It’s key to becoming a vessel for the poisons that fuel a worthwhile life, and spreading that poison, spilling it out into the world in concentrated amounts.
“And I used to imagine myself, older, wiser, and a better writer. I used to imagine that I would become good enough to write fantastic first drafts, just so I wouldn’t have to write draft after draft. It took me a while to realize that there are no brilliant first drafters.
Oddly enough, now I enjoy rewriting more than I do writing a first draft. It’s an entirely different process. Because it requires are different touch and a different set of skills, to be honest. I have a first draft, a starting point, a basis for my story. You know, like a diamond cutter… yeah, cheesy analogy, I know.
When I was young I used to love writing first drafts. Because I was stupid. Only stupid writers aren’t afraid of a blank page, a page that doesn’t know nor cares who they are. Now, the blank page terrifies me.
But rewriting… that’s what makes the difference. […..] You have to see past beautiful writing… you have to analyze the story as a whole, to see what needs more work, what has to be patched up. Plot holes, inconsistencies, style, all that stuff.
And I like doing all that stuff. I like […..] changing this or that. Because, no matter how bad the first draft is, I know I can make it better.”
I don’t think it’s entirely true that first drafts can’t be brilliant or that – as he says elsewhere – all first drafts suck; personally, some of the most eloquent things I’ve ever written, said, or done have been spontaneous…. in a very real sense, they’ve been ‘first drafts’. Having said that though, I often look at a new thread I’ve started in a similar way to how Cristian describes first drafts: a starting point, something to be revisited, changed, refined, clarified.
Rather than writing a first draft that’s never seen, then returning to it and altering it before it’s shared, in the more interactive venues of online communities the first draft is comparable to/represented in the initial post of any given discussion, and whatever the inspiration was… can develop and evolve as the discussion progresses.
When it comes to lectures, I tend to agree a little more with the specifics of what Cristian’s saying. I think the differences between fiction and lectures are less pronounced than the differences between fiction and interactive discussions in that lectures aren’t necessarily meant to be as interactive… at least not in the same sense. They can be of course, and I like to see them written and used as opening posts in new threads, but they’re potentially as much stand alone pieces as they are items/starting points for discussion. In fact, maybe I’ll start a new thread with this post at the FA. What I’ve said here is definately not without flaws, but that’s what (potentially) makes it a good ‘first draft’.
“Which process do you like best? Writing the first draft or rewriting?”
I used to prefer the first draft approach, but over time I’ve developed a fondness for playing with the initial, raw thoughts and reworking them, experimenting, to exploring different ways to say something, adding to it, refining, cutting away. In terms of results, some of the shittiest essays and lectures I’ve written (at school in the past, online, and even writings I’ve never bothered sharing) have come from the process of rewriting, but so have some of what I feel are my best. And the same is true of the first draft method. Ultimately, I bounce back and forth as I please.
(Note: The following, in bold and italics, can be found where I cut out bits of the parts I quoted from the post on Cristians blog, the post that inspired this post lol: […..] .Wherever you see that in an excerpt of Writing Is Rewriting, it means there’s pieces missing from what he actually wrote.)