Writing is rewriting

A+When I taught scriptwriting, which I did for 10 years at two different colleges, I always began class by asking, “Who wants to be a better writer?” All would raise their hands, and I would as well.

I told them I always wanted to be a better writer, even then, 15-some years into a career of it.

I’m far from perfect, and writing blogs goes against every grain. They’re never finished. I’m always picking at them, reorganizing, and fixing long after they’re posted. It’s a kind of writing I am still learning.

But that’s the point. Friends who are painters say they do the same thing, up until the moment they sell a work. Nothing is ever quite the way you want it. And, we always have new ideas as we evolve. It just amazes me sometimes the number of books published a year, and the number of paintings, that many artists over time were able to “release.”

I told my students that all writing is re-writing. They resisted. At the beginning of the semester, their drafts were terrible. Creative, but disorganized and full of extraneous words and thoughts. Undisciplined, in a word. My students had written these scripts moments, or hours, before class, and had never thought to edit them. They had never rewritten anything in their lives.

And so I made students turn in early drafts, and then a final. And if the final didn’t earn a grade they were pleased with, they could rewrite the script as much as they liked until it did.

Few students took me up on my pledge that every one of them could earn an “A” if they wanted to. It just took rewriting, and paying attention to my comments.

But those who did I’d have hired in a second if I could. They had learned to subjugate the ego that screams, “I said it the way I wanted to the first time.” This is a selfish and self-indulgent viewpoint, because their scripts were pleasing and successful only to them. I taught them that, particularly with scriptwriting, one has a responsibility to communicate clearly and succinctly.

So, like a student, I go ahead and put up these writings even though they’re not ready. Sometimes they’re badly organized. I haven’t used the right words. But “publishing” them, if you will, forces my hand. There’s another piece of writing out there in the world that I need to tend to! I have a responsibility.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl
    Oct 05, 2009 @ 20:04:16

    Thanks for living up to your responsibility. I like the process you offer to you students. It always gives all involved a chance to learn and grow.


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