Saturday, January 9, 2010

Something Elizabeth Strout Said

It's rumored that Elizabeth Strout once said the following on the art of fiction-writing: The first draft is for the writer. The second draft is for the reader.

I have this second- or third-hand; I can't even remember who said she heard the author of the utterly absorbing and artful Olive Kitteridge, among other great works, say this. Yet, this simple and true observation has stuck with me. In fact, I'd say no other piece of advice has meant more to me as a fiction-writer.

I love it for what it does for the lowly first draft. As I mentioned in a previous post, you really have to do this writing-thing for yourself. Beyond the fact that the writing life is too gut-wrenchingly difficult to labor over for any other reason, the work itself is just better if it comes from your very you. Otherwise, what you produce will be flat and boring, painfully contrived. The only way to give it energy and life is if you've loved it from the first with everything you have.

This is an important time for you and your budding great work. Be selfish with it, hug it to your quick little heart. Keep it secret. Keep it passionate. Get carried away among your own fancies and out-there notions. Include any impossible or unlikely or trite or bizarre anythings you want. Get to know it, spend time with it. Protect it. This is your baby; no matter how many subsequent saner, tighter drafts you do, no matter how well you eventually translate it for that obscure entity--the reader--no one will ever love it like you do at this moment. Coddle it. Spend your afternoons day-dreaming about it. Cherish this time. It will never be quite the same as it was back when it was just the two of you.

1 comment:

Jessie Carty said...

love that whole idea and i think it rings very true. even as a writer of poems, that first draft is very self-indulgent :)