Write Now: Musicians And Writers Should Trust The Creative Process
You may have heard musicians say they sometimes don’t like the recording process because it makes a song or project final.
I think an author can make the same argument but with words.
For a musician, he may like a different version of a song that ended up on the release.
Same for an author. He may not like his revised version of his writing that ended up being printed.
For both artists it’s the finality of it all.
A musician listens to the playback of his song and may think to himself that he could have played his part differently whereas the writer sees his words in print and suddenly had another idea that would have better clarified his point.
This is what artists anguish over. Some, not all, are not happy with their outcomes and always try to strive to do better.
Even as I prepare and write this column, I fret (no pun intended) over how I want to say what it is that I want to say. Yes, I too, face the finality of being in print. But I trust my creative process. I am lucky that I see a proof of my words before they are actually printed. When I see a proof, I may revise something before it is ready for print.
Sometimes, musicians and writers are hesitant to label any of their works as favorites. I think it may be because both don’t want to rest on their laurels.
Writing can be a solitary business. It’s because the writer is not relying on anyone else until his project is finished. Even then he revises in a solitary setting only to emerge with maybe a more-polished piece. But he doesn’t know until he submits his writing to his editor again. It may take the writer one to three rounds of revisions before it is ready for print.
Although it happens, it is rare for an artist to get it right the first time. That’s why musicians and writers revise.
In a video interview “Master of The Macabre: A Conversation with Stephen King,” youtube.com/watch?v=h9oVp6f5kxg, King says he needs to revise as well. In the interview, King said he wrote eight pages a day, and the interviewer said at that pace, King could have more than one book printed in a year.
“I could, if they (the pages) were all good,” King said. “But on the other hand, I have something here that I spent most of the fall working on and the winter. This is called ‘On The Island.’ It’s a piece of s—. I’m sorry but it is.”
But still King said revision is necessary as he said in his non-fiction novel “On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft” “For me the answer has always been two drafts and a polish (with the advent of word processing technology, my polishes have become closer to a third draft). You should realize that I’m only talking about my own personal mode of writing here; in actual practice, rewriting varies greatly from writer to writer.”
I am in agreement with King on that point because I also think revising depends on what genre of writing you are revising. With a scholar piece of writing, you may want to revise more. With a journalistic piece you have a finite amount of time to revise. But with journalistic writing, one can write a follow-up piece which can add new material. With fiction or poetry, one can revise as much as one wants to revise until one has it just perfect.
I think there are only so many times one can revise fiction before it takes a turn and becomes another story that is unrelated to the story he was revising. A writer has to know when to stop revising and let the piece go to print. When a writer has a set routine, he will know when it is ready for print.
In another video interview with The Bangor Daily News, youtube.com/watch?v=EhwLqRQ8unM, King said when he is writing, the finished product is not always his goal. “The fun of writing novels isn’t in the finished product which I don’t care about that much.” He said that finished books are like dead skin to him. “They are things that are done. But I love the process. When the work is the best work. It’s more like being a secretary than a creative person. You just sort of take the stuff down.”
Like King, John Grisham, follows a routine, but different from King’s routine. In a video interview, penguinrandomhouse.com/authors/11178/john-grisham/, Grisham explains that he begins a new novel on Jan. 1 of each year with a goal of finishing his book within by July. “When I’m writing which is usually that time of the year, I get a lot of writing done in January, February, and March,” Grisham noted.
From January to July, Grisham said he writes five days a week, and begins at 7 a.m. The author said his writing office contains no phones, faxes or Internet because he doesn’t want to be distracted. “On a good day, I’ll probably write 2,000 words. A slow day is probably 1,000 (words). There aren’t many slow days because when I start a book, I have a very good idea where it’s going,” the author said.
Grisham, King, and many musicians are successful at their crafts because they have put trust in the creative process.