No Such Thing as Wasted Writing

In On Writing by BronwenLeave a Comment

It’s a common lament. “I’ve already done all this work! Now I have to backtrack and throw it out.”

My friend, you are not Penelope perpetually unraveling her weaving at night so she can redo the exact same section the next day. Penelope never wanted to move forward, she had an island’s worth of dickish suitors to keep at bay. She was deliberately staying in one spot.

You, on the other hand, are a writer. You delete nothing. You value every word. Every word is a learning experience and a chance for growth.

My favorite teacher used to say, “The only way to learn how to write a book is to do it.”

That’s what all that ‘garbage’ writing is. It’s learning how to write the book. Sometimes you have to write the wrong stuff first. Maybe it just has to get out of your system. Maybe you’re experimenting. Maybe you thought it should be one way and now realize another method is better.

All the things you wrote before are not a waste.

It doesn’t matter how godawful they are. Every single word, including the first time you scrawled out your name in crayon, got you here.

They brought you to this point, this point where you have greater clarity of vision. Cherish that. Before you excise those wretched words, take a moment to appreciate them and what they’ve done for you.

It’s a philosophy for life as well, but I find it especially applicable to writing. Drafting is an accepted part of the process. Give yourself permission to suck. That’s how you improve.

Penelope and the Suitors by John William Waterhouse(1912).

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