Don’t Destroy Good Writing

Sometimes writers don’t trust themselves. We write a paragraph, reread it, backspace (a lot), and write it again. And then we repeat the process. Several times.

For me personally, I’m not so sure if the sixth time I write the same paragraph is really all that much better than the first attempt. What I do know, however, is that writing this way takes forever and turns something that is naturally hard to do into something that is excruciatingly difficult.

Lately, I haven’t been making progress because I keep writing the same stuff again and again. I’ve decided to take a lesson from history and break this bad habit. Let me explain:

Over Thanksgiving break my family went on a little adventure. Our favorite stomping ground is Southern Utah (near the Kanab area). First we hit Cutler’s Point, which is a fabulous cave (albeit shallow) inside the side of a mountain plateau. (See pictures below.)

We drove back from the hike using an old highway that used to be the
main road into Kanab.  On some of the red cliff walls right next to the old highway are Native American Fremont petroglyphs dating from 700 to about 1300 A.D.

writingOn top of some of these wonderful writings from a culture lost hundreds of years ago, business men from the mid 1900s wrote big advertisements in black paint—everything from law services to painting for hire. It was a “natural” bill board of sorts. People noticed the cool petroglyphs, so writing a business advertisement right over the top of them would ensure better visibility for their ads.


What were they thinking?

I’m starting to ask myself the same question when I “write
over” my own writing again and again, hoping to improve it. Am I actually making things worse?

My new game plan is to write whatever comes out and move forward. In the end, I know I’ll be going back and rewriting/cleaning up my manuscript. I don’t need to keep writing over myself during the creative process. After all,  I may be destroying things that should be left alone.

Here are a few more pictures from our outdoor adventure:

Cutler's PointIMG_1338





7 thoughts on “Don’t Destroy Good Writing

  1. Great pics. Looks like fun!
    I agree with your comments. I find I do the same thing, going back over stuff as I write. It certainly bogs down the creative part of writing. Yes, I think you are spot on… the solution is to just write and go back and clean it up later. When I do that I get more done.
    A good critique group can help point out places to clean up, as well. I have found times where things I had planned on cutting were some of the best received by my group. So you are right you might just cut something you regret doing. It is hard to recreate what we have deleted. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse.
    Great post. Love those pics! Any snakes?

  2. You hit one of my greatest problems. I don’t know how often I write and rewrite things over and over again. And it does keep me from going any further.
    Wonderful pictures! Looks like you had a great time.

  3. Love reading your musings from your Utah hikes. Every writer needs such inspiration as you find in the desert, Lois!

  4. I used to do that, too. I’ve decided in recent books just to write–get it all out– and then use the revision time to do all the re-writes. It’s probably not a lot better, but at least I have the whole story down.

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