Oh, the humanity!: Falling in love with rewriting

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pp.print
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

“Everything you quote — every movie, every TV show, every lyric — has been endlessly rewritten… Fall in love with rewriting!”

My uncle, who is a great writer, recently said these words.

And I love them. It’s a process I know well.

Every brand.

Every headline.

Every script.

Every sitemap.

Every webpage.

All of it.

They’ve all been nipped and tucked and scrapped and scratched out and added back in and shifted and shaken not stirred and screamed at and forgiven and rinsed and repeated.

A bucket brigade of project managers, clients, writers, editors and SEO strategists passed the words back and forth.

Commas were nixed and then added again.

A passionate battle in grammar rules that frankly are meant to be broken likely made its way in.

And I’ve fallen in love with this process.

As you’re reading this, I’ve probably already changed this post and these words — probably this word — ten times. Make that eleven.

In an excerpt published in Fast Company last year out of Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s memoir, Getting There: The Book of Mentors, Weiner talks about a concept in art called hiding the brushstrokes — or hiding the steps that it took to create the masterpiece.

“If you don’t get to see the notes, the rewrites, and the steps,” Weiner writes, “it’s easy to look at a finished product and be under the illusion that it just came pouring out of someone’s head like that.”

I suppose that’s the point.

For writing to be so flawless it seems like it was easy.

But for young buck writers like myself, it’s nice to have role models who don’t hide behind this false idea that to write is to close ones eyes and out pops a vision with the right words to say — a perfectly compiled manuscript floating high above our heads and glowing angelically.

(Sure, this happens to some people. But they’re the worst.)

It’s more like spending weeks in a mosquito-infested cabin in the middle of a swamp with nothing to eat but day-old pizza and emerging covered in algae, body odor and bug bites with a crinkled and grease-stained piece of paper above your head that slightly resembles what the finished product will be in another few weeks or months or so.

As Amy Poehler in Yes, Please puts it, “The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not.”

But she also says this:

“Watching great people do what you love is a good way to start learning how to do it yourself.”

And I think that’s what makes a place like Elliance such a special place.

I get to work with great writers, and great professionals who don’t pretend their work isn’t hard.

Because hard work is way more deserving of celebration than something that came in a vision anyway.