Jake from Philadelphia, PA asks: “You’ve been writing for a long time. What’s the difference between the way you used to write and the way you write now?”
One might think a lot of experience, and yes, success, would make my writing come easier. Actually it’s that experience and success which makes it harder.
That puzzled me for a while until I could figure out why.
As far as I know, nobody writes anything very well the first time. That said, when you are a young writer you tend to think rather highly of your first work. Perfectly understandable, except it’s usually not the case. Indeed, I often tell young writers that if they write something, and they think it’s good, they are in trouble. It’s much better to realize that what you have written is NOT good, so you can start to revise it.
Thus it is with me: over the years I believe my standards are higher, my sense of quality more demanding. Beyond all else I am much more in touch with my intuitive feeling about the quality of my first drafts. Thus, when I start, say, a new book, I am painfully aware how bad it is. Very discouraging. Truly dispiriting. I have to remind myself it will take many, many revisions to get me into a comfort zone, where the writing has some value.
What’s the difference between the way I used to write and the way I write now? These days I have to work harder to write well.