When I was a kid I went to an elementary school where we did a lot of work in clay. We shaped ashtrays, monsters, snakes, ballet dancers, and football players. At the end of art class, if we were still working on a piece, we covered it in wet paper towels and enclosed it in a plastic bag. When we returned to the studio in a couple of days, we would unwrap the clay and the piece had remained moist and malleable, still colored dark gray. We could change anything we’d already done.
If we didn’t wrap the piece in damp towels, the clay would dry out, turning a paler gray, and we could only make limited changes, mostly by adding on, and even then, the new clay often would not bond with the old.
What does this have to do with writing? Many writers feel that their early drafts cannot be touched. They get too attached to a certain version of a piece of writing, and they resist making changes. They don’t keep the clay wet. As a result, they ignore feedback, and even refuse to pay attention to their own instincts and thoughts about what is or isn’t working in their writing.
It’s vital if you want to finish a work with the same quality of writing that you “keep the clay wet.” Don’t get too attached to any one phrase or draft or scene or character. What has to go, has to go. What you replace it with will be even better.
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How to Deliver Your Message
Does the Muse Have a Cell Phone?
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Poetic Forms: Introduction; The Sonnet, The Sestina, The Ghazal, The Tanka
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How to Be an American Writer