I'm thinking ...

I've had several emails and comments about yesterday's posting - some people agreeing, others wondering how the hell you stop yourself becoming a compulsive 'polisher'. I know why I think it's a bad idea for writers to spend so little time writing and so much time editing, revising and polishing, but I'm not sure I've formulated that knowledge enough to put it into words.

Mostly it comes from a visceral sense that the writers I know who write a lot, are happier than those who don't. And that seems to be based in some feeling in them, that the best is still ahead, often in the story they're currently writing - whereas for the 'polishers' there seems to be a sense that the best is hidden in what they already have, but perhaps they can't quite get others to see it.

Partly though, it comes from my years spent trying to convey complex ideas (like climate change) to often unreceptive audiences. What I discovered - and it will be no surprise - is that people do better when they are inside the idea. If I tried to persuade people of the value of reducing fossil fuel use, they would switch off. But if I gave them facts about changing petrol prices and how that affected a travelling teacher who had to drive sixty miles a day to teach basic literacy to little children, and then asked them to write a letter for her, explaining to car manufacturers why they should produce a solar-powered car, boy did they get into it!

Writing is the experience of becoming the travelling teacher. Editing is the process of persuading people by use of facts.

Writing is immersive. We are 'being' writers. We are inside our craft, using our talent to power us through an everchanging landscape. It may be knackering but it's also new and stimulating.

Revising is extractive. We are 'doing' editing. We look at our work from all angles and take away a bit here and a bit there until it is stronger and better balanced. It is exhausting but in addition it's a constant re-treading of an old path and it can become depressing.

I'm going to think about this some more. I need to understand why my gut feeling about this is so strong and whether it can be expressed simply enough to others. Equally, I need to explore why something that seems so important and so obvious to me, doesn't seem to be much of a feature of most courses that teach fiction.