I have to confess that no matter how many of the writers I love and respect say that only a tenth of what they write makes it to the final draft, I still struggle with the idea of spending time writing something that will not survive. As a student and blogger and writer of bad fiction, I have thrown away very little of my writing. I spend a lot of time working on it and tend to edit as I go, but it’s almost embarrassing how much my final draft resembles my first draft.
It’s not that I think my writing is precious and too good for the garbage can. It’s more that I’m obsessed with efficiency and constantly aware of time. I have this fire in my stomach that is always pushing me on toward the next thing. It pains me to realize that I will never publish the post I spent two hours writing yesterday. So much that even though I knew it almost immediately, I hid it from myself for a full day.
I know that time wasn’t actually wasted. In writing that post that was simultaneously self-important and apologetic for being self-important, I clarified some things for myself. And I’d like to think that even the wasted writing that does not provide such personal insight still counts for something and gets me in the habit of sitting down to write.
After reading one of the early drafts of my MA thesis, my advisor told me I needed to put more of myself into it and begin more sentences with “I think . . . .” So, I did. And then when he read a later draft, he told me that my argument was weakened by how many sentences I began with I. I should just write statements and not say things like, “I think . . . .” Before my eyes had a chance to bug out, he said, “I know I told you to do that. It was a necessary step. You’ve made those arguments and now you strengthen them by just removing all of the “I think/feel . . . .” That was the first time I saw any value in serious rewriting.
But I still struggle to have patience with the process.
A couple months ago, I was on a digital minimalism kick of some kind and deleted all of the blog drafts and ideas I’d been holding onto for too long. It felt really good at first, but since then I have a couple times wished I still had those posts. Quite strange for me, because I get rid of things all the time, and I never regret it. There was one post about how I didn’t want to ever own a home, and I deleted it and then someone asked me to write a post on that very topic. Right, so I rewrote it, and it was different, but probably better. Was throwing away that writing such a big deal? No. And after deleting the list of blog ideas I’d had forever, I immediately started a new one which is now 26 items long (well, 25 now).
It’s Friday, and I just know I’m going to spend a lot of time writing things this weekend that won’t be right to post. That’s still frustrating to me. Like, really really. I’m trying to get somewhere here, internet! But, something something, keep going keep going. It’s not time wasted.