Creating a good piece of writing is a deceptively difficult thing to do. This probably isn’t news to anyone who has tried in earnest to write something well, but it’s an important thing to remember when trying to write in the first place. Great work of any sort rarely happens the first try. No baseball player ever hit a home run his first at bat, and writing is similar in that regard. Luckily for our purposes, writing is a lot more relenting than baseball- a writer has an infinite number of strikes, so long as he’s managed his time and has the willpower to keep swinging.
Rewrites provide a more objective look at our writing
A writer could have all the raw, natural talent in the world- but that talent would pale in comparison to what time away from the project and a fresh set of eyes can do. First drafts are a sloppy, sloppy business. The comparatively common process of making one’s thoughts manifest on a piece of paper or a computer screen is enough to exhaust anyone’s brain, let alone trying to do it in an organized, structurally sound sort of way.
That’s why we at TTT constantly sing the praises of our favorite writing tool- the rewrite! It’s foolproof. It’s free. And it’s frequently disregarded. There’s an obvious reason why it’s disregarded: there’s never enough time. Rewriting can mean the difference between an A paper and a C paper, but it requires forethought and time management, qualities many aspiring young writers lack. The unfortunate reality is that no paper written the night before a deadline could ever be as good as it might have been, were it written a week in advance.
Rewrites train us to look out for mistakes ahead of time
Beyond its obvious usefulness in helping an author correct his own errors, the act of rewriting has another subtle but profoundly important benefit to provide. “Writing and writing and writing” will likely make one a better author, but “writing and rewriting and writing and rewriting” is all but guaranteed to. The more a writer revisits his own prose, the more familiar with his own style and propensity for errors he becomes.
To return to baseball for a moment: a hitter who takes the time to review his stats and try and apply what he learns will go much further than a hitter who just keeps swinging for the fences. Rewriting helps writers see what they’re doing wrong, and teaches them to avoid doing it. In the same way that reading great literature is a surefire way to learn good habits, rewriting is perhaps the best way of dropping bad ones.
Rewrites train us to be more reflective on our thought processes
In a culture where instantaneous communication and ceaseless commentary are the norm, it’s plain to see how the concept of the rewrite has largely taken a back seat. Taking the time to produce a text, ignore it long enough to return to it with an objective eye, and then fix the problems that come to light, seems like an almost needlessly ritualistic and archaic process in the era of rapid-fire twitter posts. But as we often say here at TTT, writing is thinking. And if that’s true, then it’s fair to assume that rewriting is rethinking.
Doesn’t that sound like a brilliant idea for all of us- rethinking what we assumed to be true? Meditating on our own logical process and aesthetic choices in an effort to be more coherent and clear almost sounds like a vacation from the constant chorus of tweets and dings and updates. Although, I could be wrong; I should follow my own advice, and come back to this piece tomorrow to see if I should rewrite it.