“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
- Scott Adams
As I’ve said in the past, writing is rewriting.
For me, rewriting has evolved from being an arduous chore to becoming an exercise in the thrill of discovery and striving for perfection. In short, rewriting is a joy; I love nearly everything about it.
And then there’s the first draft.
“The first draft of anything is sh*t,” Ernest Hemingway famously said. The more I write, the more I get that, especially as I make my way through the first draft of my novel.
Since the beginning of my writing sabbatical, I’ve moved from the tentative placement on paper of ideas I’ve been mulling for nearly three years to the all-out dumping of words on the page. It’s showing no signs of slowing down, this avalanche of characters, setting, and story; nor is it yet showing much sign of cohesion. At this early stage it’s as though I’m laying down seemingly random chunks of several different jigsaw puzzle at once, and no more do I know what to keep than do I know what’s still to come. I’m faced with countless decisions in the coming weeks and months.
Writing is also mowing the lawn, or more precisely, mowing the neighbour’s oak leaves that blow across the street and settle in hip-deep drifts on my postage-stamp lawn, inducing the Business Guy to mutter while raking them something about having more leaves than lawn. But mowing the neighbour’s leaves allows me to ruminate on writing decisions, as it frees me up from thinking too deeply about anything except the apple core hiding under the leaves, which produced a nice blob of apple sauce on the blades of the push mower (better an apple core than what Hemingway was talking about.)
It was while pushing the mower back and forth and thinking agreeable thoughts about the fertilizing benefits of oak leaves that I reached a decision about how far back I need to go in the life of one of my characters. Not exactly a Big Quiet Moment, but certainly a Mid-sized Lawn Mowing Moment that gave me a juicy hint as to where the story is going.
I have a lot of words to dump and a few oak leaves to rake before I can begin the joyful business of rewriting my novel, but at least I’m a step closer for having decided what’s next.