I often get into debates with non-writer types about the problem with writing. “It’s never done,” they assert. “You could revise until the cows come home.” (Note: The individuals in question are invariably business students, who would prefer to take a test than write a paper. Also, they never actually use the phrase “until the cows come home.”) But I digress.
Writing, or at least writing well, brings with it the inherent need to revise, edit, and proofread. I embrace this as part of the process. First and foremost, it takes the pressure off when writing a first draft. It’s easier to slap something on the page if you convince yourself it’s okay if it’s crap the first go round. It also allows for the things you write later to inform the things written earlier. There is more cohesion, better flow, fewer typos. The list could go on and on.
The trick is knowing when to stop. Third draft? Fourth? Tenth? When you’re happy with the story? When you get to the point of making a correction only every five pages? When you read it and change absolutely nothing?
It’s the last one that’s tricky. I don’t know if I ever get to that point. Ever. I’m confronted with the non-writerly gripe: it might not ever be done.
Bah. Bah, I say. Writing is not about perfection. Writing is about something between draft three and draft one hundred and sixty. It’s about trusting the story, trusting your voice, and trusting your second reader (because, really, you must have one of those). If you’re looking to be published, writing is about holding your breath and hitting the submit button and loving yourself for it.
I’m almost there. Next week, I think. Until then, my pink pen and inner grammar snob await.