In Praise of First Drafts
Boswell recounts the story of Dr. Johnson, at the height of his career, on deadline with half an hour to spare. He told the postman to wait, wrote a thousand words, and as he folded the paper to put it in the envelope, his companion asked him if he could read it.
“Sir,” replied Dr. Johnson, “you shall do no more than I have done.”
This is the mark of the Zen master, described so well in Zen and the Art of Archery. In the beginning, the amateur writer thinks every first draft is the best thing ever written. With more experience, the seasoned writer learns to appreciate editing and rewriting. But this stage is not an end in itself. The goal is mastery: to empty your mind, pick up a pen, and write.
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