Writing is sometimes like playing chutes and ladders. As a kid, I played this game like crazy. I loved the feeling of excitement as my little plastic game piece climbed up the board, getting tantalizingly closer to the goal. Every time I slid down again, I was even more determined to climb to the top.
Similarly, the writing process often goes like this:
The climb: write draft feverishly for days at a time. Draft gets finished.
Nearing the goal: THIS IS THE BEST DRAFT EVER! I AM CLEARLY BRILLIANT!
An unexpected slide: Begin editing again. (Enough said).
The climb: Write feverishly. Again.
Somehow, in the middle of the process when a draft is coming to an end, it becomes clear that a “finished” draft is missing something crucial at the beginning. It sounds counterintuitive, but I think that the unexpected slide is an extremely necessary part of the writing process. Ever heard of the phrase “hindsight 20/20?”
In life, this hindsight business is really not that helpful. Sure, you can see later that driving around the nearest town yelling “FABUTAN!” out of your window with a group of hyped up friends was not actually the height of coolness in high school, but you won’t realize it until it is too late (aka adulthood –yet another YOUNG ME stunt I’d like to forget).
The beautiful thing about writing is that hindsight is actually useful. When you find yourself sliding downwards into another editing trap, remember that all of those insights that you just had are now useable in your next draft to make it better.
Even Dante & Virgil in Dante’s Inferno had to journey downwards through all of the levels of hell before they could start that climb up to heaven, after all. …Not that I think writing is like being in hell, or anything. Usually. Mostly. Okay, sometimes.