On Writing and Work Ethic

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Writing is difficult and intimidating. Nothing makes you question your worth like a blinking cursor on a blank page.

Many great writers encourage that the first draft should be absolute garbage. It doesn’t matter. No one will ever see it. The point is to get the ball rolling. Writing is like physics; more force is required to move an object at rest than to sustain one already moving.

My ability to write the first draft with no concern for quality, made possible by laborious revision, determines my growth as a writer.

The ease of the reader is matched by the suffering of the writer.

Ann Lamott wrote Bird by Bird, an encouraging guide for the aspiring writer, in which she shares the story behind the title’s origin:

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report written on birds that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books about birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

We falsely believe prodigies of the past tapped into something divine, and were a conduit through which great writing flowed.

Hemingway rewrote Farewell to Arms nearly fifty times. Hunter S. Thompson rewrote, word-for-word, the works of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, to feel good writing. Bertrand Russell’s daily vocabulary would disclose his dictionary’s bookmark.

Joseph Campbell spent five years in seclusion, reading.

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