Writing is rewriting

Posted in Kerouac, On writing at 7:19 am by Marion

THIS WEEK: On revisions

Was it E.B. White who said Writing is rewriting? It was a hard lesson for this writer, penning my first stories at 18 and dreaming of my own brilliance … nurtured in college on the Kerouac myth of spontaneous prose and not knowing what I do now about the years of writing Kerouac put in before “On the Road” erupted in a three-week spasm.

There is simply no way to sit down and in a single take write anything worth reading, much less saving. You can stare into the mirror of your own words, but it doesn’t make you beautiful, just vain.

True, there are writers who have energy and fire, such as Hunter Thompson, but there is a vigor there that comes from a worked intensity. It’s not just flinging words around and admiring your own genius.

I believe it was Anais Nin and Henry Miller who conversed about the heat of a first draft: When perched over your own words, you are feeling your own emotion and often deluded into thinking you’ve captured it in prose. When you read it the next day you find it flat. Many times I’ve wanted to throw away what was written the day before.

Even now, I have been working on a feature article for about four weeks and imagined it had verve and energy. Yesterday I printed a copy and it read flat and dull to me. The real work for a writer is to hang in there, to have faith, to polish and deepen in the right places, to add enough and not too much, to know where the heart isn’t beating and get the blood into those places.

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