typewriter

I’m in the re-writing phase now.

As any writer can tell you, this is an open-ended phase which – if you let it – could genuinely last the rest of your natural existence.

(I always recall the tale of Ralph Ellison, who spent the latter half of his life obsessively writing and re-writing his second novel. By the time he died, he had thousands of pages, but no actual finished book.)

Re-writing can be a rabbit hole leading to a bottomless cavern perched upon an abyss. It’s all about second guessing yourself, then triple guessing yourself, quadruple guessing yourself and on and on and on.

Obviously most of the sentences you write in your first draft will be rubbish and need to be re-written. That’s fair enough. So you sweat over your keypad and get something you like before tackling the next paragraph and the next chapter, but you are eventually going to have to come back to that re-written bit and ask yourself:

Is this good enough?

Sometimes a change is necessary because the book has progressed since you last looked at that particular section; other times it’s because you’ve had a better idea in the interim; while other times – most times, quite probably – you feel you have to change it simply because your mood is different. Then, you re-write it again and you end up with something else you like, but a seed of doubt is sewn:

Is it actually better than what I had before? Have I made it worse, rather than improving it?’

That’s when it becomes maddening. That’s when it becomes a trap you build for yourself and paper the walls with thousands of different versions of the same sentence, the same paragraph, the same chapter. That’s when you need to pull back, take a look at something else, give yourself a break and make a decision when you return. Otherwise it will consume you for the rest of your days.

Actually, I’m making the rewriting process sound like something from a horror story. A grey formless monster which will poison your soul with doubt and procrastination.

Undoubtedly writing is difficult, but the good absolutely does outweigh the bad.

As when you get something you really, really like – something you are really, really proud of –  then that feeling is like crack-cocaine in paper form.

You just have to hope that the next time you read it, you don’t end up thinking:

Y’know, with a tweak or two…

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