Wine is best for first drafts and coffee is best for second drafts. The reverse, I have learned, is less true, which is probably because scribbling on a blank page comes with the most promise—at least, for me—when the words are aggressive, visceral, and when the sentences land from instinct. Later drafts, however, require patience and moderation and reflection and discipline and a little ruthlessness about my own ideas, but that’s only possible once I’m playing with already written words. And this is simply another way of saying that first drafts are murders of passion and that second drafts wash the scene before the police arrive.
In this metaphor, the writer is left holding the axe, worried about fingerprints and blood spots and all the mistakes that were surely made in the frenetic, intuitive rush to create sentences; and that also means that readers are the police in this metaphor, filled with endless questions about what’s you’ve written and a rather disturbing knack for catching some tiny mistake that you’ve committed in some seemingly unimportant sentence back when you were moving at a breathless pace.
This shouldn’t imply that there’s a single correct way to write, nor should it follow that I’ve figured out all the answers for scraping my pen across the page. What I’ve discovered about writing happens to work for me, though I wouldn’t say that my methods are fixed, they’re more like temporary inclinations, or useful heuristics, which I’m perfectly ready to jettison once something better comes along—the manner in which I approach the page today is almost certainly a distance from how I will approach the page tomorrow. And perhaps that latter point is my one conviction: I expect all of my beliefs about craft and creativity to evolve. My beliefs about writing, in this moment, feel conclusive, logical, even irrefutable, though I do hope that they look ridiculous to me in just a few years—the alternative is a mind that is stagnant, which sounds like the very nullification of living as a writer.
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