I loved this post on Creating and Editing from J. Robert Lennon, who is probably one of my most impressive internet friends and YOU GUYS HE IS AN AWESOME WRITER AND GUYS ONE TIME I GOT BURRITOS WITH HIM (and he eats a burrito just like you would expect a writer to. Like…metaphorically.)
Anyway, it’s a great article that is supposedly about writing fiction collaboratively, but is actually about how being a creative person means you’re on a team – with two versions of yourself.
Lennon describes the first version as “the one who is able to suppress the fear and self-disgust that can derail any creative effort.” Sounds wonderful! And the second one version of yourself? “The [second one] one … is able to dismiss inspiration as so much bullshit, and brass-knuckle a manuscript into shape.”
Years ago I think I read something where Quincy Jones said he got some very similar advice from Duke Ellington, and it is really the best advice for any individual involved in a creative pursuit. I am ALWAYS telling my students that there’s two stages to the creative process: 1) Getting all your ideas out 2) Going back and editing all those ideas into something good.
Note that you are not to assess the value of ANYTHING in stage 1!!! If it’s in your head, you write it down (or record it or notate it or whatever). Don’t worry about if something is “good” until stage 2.
Stage 1 is what your English teachers called the rough draft. In private, away from your delicate ears, they refer to it as the “crap draft.” You are literally pulling anything from your head that you think may be relevant and just barfing it all onto the page.
THEN, in stage 2, you go through and cut out what’s irrelevant and keep what looks good.
(Weirdly, I’m pretty good at this when recording music in my studio. But now that I’ve started studying classical composition, I’m finding I need to re-apply this procedure to my new workflow. )
Anyway, J. Robert Lennon is smart. Read the article. Also, his fiction is hilarious, irreverent, clever, and at times quite haunting. Check out a book of his short fiction, Video Game Hints, Tricks, and Cheats, from his website. Or buy his books from Amazon.