WRITING TIP: Before you publish that piece of writing, listen to Ernest Hemingway

In my work with writers, the thing that most distinguishes those who are experienced from those who are new is understanding the need to write drafts. New writers often expect a piece of writing to come out whole and complete — ready to publish on the first try. When freewriting, this is actually true: We write together and share the immediacy of our thought process by reading aloud. The preciousness and the beauty of that exchange is a great pleasure. And yet, I wouldn’t publish a book of freewrites. Why? Because they don’t often translate to work that makes sense out of the context of the writing process itself. They may be filled with seed thoughts, beautiful passages — even whole drafts — but they are not “finished.” Any first attempt at expression needs reflection and subsequent shaping to be ready for the random reader. “The first draft of anything is shit,” said Ernest Hemingway. And while that might sound harsh, it can also be freeing. Why not take Hemingway’s word for it and go in with the goal of writing garbage, thereby freeing yourself of the desire to have something come out whole in one swoop? Why not embrace this freedom, knowing there is no need to worry about perfection because drafts can come from it, and what is missing can be filled in, what is unfinished can be made whole?