For the last two months, I’ve been working fulltime on an update of a book I wrote several years ago.
More precisely, I’ve been working on an update of the first 20 pages of that book.
Yesterday I said to myself, "Self, what would you tell a student who had this problem?"
Self answered, "Don’t rewrite; revision."
As a teenager, I followed my English teacher’s dictum and revised my writing again and again and again until I had beaten it into a lifeless mass of words, with nothing to show for my effort but a wastepaper can full of crumpled paper.
Later, as a newspaper reporter, I discovered that once I had my lead paragraph the rest of the story would fall into place.
For years I eschewed rewriting.
If I started a piece that didn’t work, I looked for a different approach to the topic, a different perspective.
And I taught my writing students not to waste time rewriting, but to find a new vision.
But every so often I forget.
I revert to the behavior Mrs. Clark drilled into me.
I try to rewrite my way to clarity.
It never works.