Ownership of our writing

Here is a listening version of this blog post.

How proprietorial are we about what we have written?

For me, the most fun part of writing is the first bit, when ideas are running away from me, down the page, sometimes so fast that my fingers slip off the keyboard while my thoughts are pushing ahead. The excitement of chasing down an idea and framing it to the page is really the best part of the writer’s day. Having these ideas, and the words to work them into something, is what art and craft are all about. That first draft, the energetic outline, may be fleshed out very quickly. But we cannot leave it like that, can we?

A good first working draft is one thing. But surely, the most difficult part of creativity – and one part of writing which I actually enjoy very much – is the discipline of re-reading, discarding and re-writing, even if that means that sometimes we agonise for hours or days over one sentence or turn of phrase.

Every artist has pieces of their creativity littering their lives, the piles of which would very quickly become unmanageable without some sweeps of culling and clearing. I find that it is the processes of tidying, reinvention and re-writing that most tax a writer’s courage: how often should we re-write, and what should we throw away? Anything that we know in our heart of hearts will not appeal as much to our readers as it does to us, will probably be heading to the recycle bin.

Madrazo, Portrait of a Lady, MM.2014.03

Writing is not only about retrieving beautiful passages of prose and poetry from our souls. It also encompasses the benign destruction of our favourite passages, to allow the light of understanding to penetrate so that others can more easily share our enjoyment. Like a rosebush that is pruned hard to the ground and blossoms easily and wildly the following year, if we have faith in what we are writing and some patience to brew the final result carefully, that first taste of a good finished piece is surely worth the wait.

Thanks for reading.

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