Like the rest of us, they write crummy first, and often second, third, and fourth drafts. Many admit that each time they start on something new, it’s as if they’ve never written anything before, never sold a book, never won a prize. They feel like they have to learn everything all over again.
Edward P. Jones, whose novel The Known World, received enormous critical acclaim and won the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award, said in an interview, “ . . . [Y]ou take a week and you write a good story perhaps. And then you get up the next Monday, and all the effort and knowledge that went into writing that first story – you can’t transfer it over to the second story. You are always starting at the bottom again.”
By the way, The Known World – which was Jones’s first novel – won a Pulitzer Prize!
It took Thoreau about nine (that’s right—9) years to write his book about his sojourn at Walden Pond.
Arthur Golden’s novel, Memoirs of a Geisha, took 15 years to write.
I tell my writing students that it takes persistence, not just skill, to write a good book. And it starts with writing a lousy first draft.
Being critical of your work too early in the process of writing suppresses your creativity. Be creative first. Then during editing and revising, be critical.
How crappy are your first drafts?