where the writers are
Words get in the way

More and more often, I’m able to remind myself that writing isn’t primarily about words, but the ideas and emotions behind the words. Words are tools, important tools, but no more than that. They help, and they also get in the way at times.

A few gifted people are able to formulate ideas in their heads clearly enough that by the time their thoughts and feelings are words on a screen, those words need little rearranging. I can only start with a rough idea, translate that idea into words as best I can, then start shaping the first ugly lump of clay into something more recognizable. I do a lot of drafts.

I gave myself permission to do a lot of drafts because I had to. Drafts are great if one doesn’t take them too seriously. But showing rough drafts to people who don’t understand the writing process, who won’t be able to see that they’re an interim step, can result in discouraging or simply unhelpful feedback.

One day, I may be able to remember that the writing isn’t only not about the words, but it’s not about me, either. Writing is about the process of writing, which can be very personal, but simultaneously and separately, it’s about the reader’s experience. Failing to understand the reader’s experience, apart from the process of writing, may be the primary cause of bad writing.

I look back at these somewhat awkwardly constructed paragraphs and wonder if they’ll make sense to the reader, or whether they only make sense to me. But this is a blog entry, and most of the people reading this know all about drafts, and when to let things go.