Every young writer should see this (via if:book), but you’ll be fascinated, too. (Ben Fry’s presentation is wonderful.)
We often think of scientific ideas, such as Darwin’s theory of evolution, as fixed notions that are accepted as finished. In fact, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species evolved over the course of several editions he wrote, edited, and updated during his lifetime. The first English edition was approximately 150,000 words and the sixth is a much larger 190,000 words. In the changes are refinements and shifts in ideas — whether increasing the weight of a statement, adding details, or even a change in the idea itself.
I have good friends who were afflicted early-on — thanks to the assistance of ignorant parents and teachers — with an unshakable belief that great words flow unbidden from great minds. When these friends fail to execute a bit of writing at the moment of conception they take it as a sign of failure, if not inherent failing in themselves.
My own experience as a writer and as a student of writing is that great words are a torment and struggle for all writers on all but the rarest of days. I have met no Mozarts in Literature, writing whole scores with no erasures. I have met and read only hard-working writers who know that the first draft is exactly that.
We walk with a skeleton designed for effortless walking.
Our minds were not designed for effortless poetry and prose.
— Mark Barrett
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