Once upon a time, not all that terribly long ago, I was one of those writers who thought that every word was precious. If it was somewhat short of brilliance - every phrase and sentence had at least the seeds of genius in it. While that may be true for some writers, it's certainly never been true for me.
While I do come out with my share of good, strong, dynamic sentences - I also conjure up more than my share of stinkers. And while I can write an engaging readable first draft, they do tend to be riddled with typos and awkward constructions. I often feel that I have made my case brilliantly, then upon re-reading three days later, end up wondering what the hell I was trying to say.
All of my life - fancying myself not only as a writer, but as a good writer - I have deluded myself into believing that I'm an exceptional writer. I've clung to every word, as hard-earned and precious.
I think the problem was simply not having written enough. I used to write really good fourth drafts - now I write even better fourth drafts - because I am willing to believe that I can do better and I have become unafraid to flat-out erase things and start from scratch.
I remember the good stuff. I usually even remember my best lines and most cogent thoughts. The second and third time around I have a much better idea of where I want to get to and how to get there.
It's important not to forget that I occasionally nail it on the first draft and write something I can't improve on. Sometimes a line, a paragraph, a page...once or twice even an entire story or chapter.
Recognizing the good stuff and knowing what I should keep and what I should throw out - that's the hardest part.
And now that I finally have the courage not only to recognize the stuff that falls short, but to recognize, rewrite or even scrap it - perhaps I'm finally on my way to achieving my goal of writing something that I can genuinely feel proud of - not to say that I'm ashamed of the valiant efforts I've made along the way - but these days I've also learned to take pride in being able to admit to myself that "a valiant effort" is all it really is.
A genius for self-criticism may not be as satisfying as a genius for writing, but I firmly believe it will get you to the same place in the end. And so, I write, delete, rewrite, delete some more. And every now and then - as in this little reflection, I trust myself to quickly make my point and get out. And if genius remains far away...at least now I've adjusted my delusions to believe that I get a little bit closer each and every day.