I was listening to Stephen Kiernan, talk about his writing process this past Saturday, and was struck when he said that he was a much better re-writer than writer. It was only a passing comment but it was as if a megaphone was broadcasting this message just for me. I’d only ever heard one other person say that they enjoyed rewriting.
I asked him to elaborate and he talked about his writing process and how the fast and furious pace of getting ideas down on paper was his first step, but going back, re-reading, re-writing, adding, deleting, and shaping the writing, was his second, very enjoyable, step.
As I listened to him, an inner door opened. I began to think,”What if I can look at rewriting in a different way? What if I could stop thinking that it was a struggle?”
I’ve always cringed when artists lamented the difficulties of doing their art, and never thought I’d bought into the struggling artist archetype (nobly, or not so nobly, suffering, for their art) and suddenly I realized that I had…not about my painting, but about writing. I cannot count the number of times I’ve thought, “I love getting ideas down on paper, but I don’t like editing them.” And I believed that nobody else did either.
Life is made difficult by whatever beliefs I hold about it. It doesn’t really matter how those beliefs got planted in my mind. It doesn’t matter if 99.9% of writers believe that rewriting is a drag, it is my belief that will determine my experience of rewriting, and in that moment, listening to Stephen talk about rewriting, I realized that I was holding onto the belief it was a “necessary evil”.
This man’s casual comment was a life changing, belief challenging, event for me. All he did was to mention something that he loved to do and I began to think, “Maybe I can love it too.” I know the effect wouldn’t have been the same if he’d said, “You should enjoy rewriting” or even if he’d tried to teach/show us how to do it… if he didn’t enjoy it himself.
Several years ago, my mother told me that she liked grocery shopping. I never knew that about her, and had never heard anyone else say that they liked to grocery shop. I’d always looked at it as if it was a chore, but my view of it changed on that day and I began to enjoy it more and more. Years ago, I was complaining to an elderly nun about the brutally cold weather. I was sure she’d agree with me but she looked at me with the sweetest smile and said, “I love the winter. The colder, the better”, and now on bitterly cold days, I think of Sister Bernadette and smile.
It’s easy to talk about what is wrong, what or who we don’t like, our fears, suspicions, struggles, pains, and unhappiness…and there is a place for that, but oh what delight to hear someone talk about what they love. What good we can do for ourselves, and for untold others, when we simply acknowledge what we love.
“Love cures people – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.” Karl Menninger