This is something that I should have learned years ago:
When I’m writing, I’ll occasionally realize that I don’t know something that I feel is crucial to the story. The way I used to handle this is to stop and immediately go on a search for the missing information. Now, I just keep going, knowing that this is just a draft and that I’ll be rewriting this part anyway.
Or, I’ll write a sentence that runs on, or that has too many extra clauses in it, or has wording that I don’t like. Before, I would stop and spend as much time as I needed to rewrite the sentence. Sometimes this meant rewriting the whole paragraph, the whole scene, the whole chapter, or even the whole piece. Now, I just keep going, since I know that I’m going to be rewriting.
Other times, I’ll write a sentence and it’ll bring a hundred questions to mind. Take the sentence, “Joe came in and drank a glass of water.” Why was Joe out? Where did he come in from? Where did he get the glass? Where did he get the water? Before, I would stop and rewrite the sentence to answer those questions, sometimes adding several sentences in the process. Now, I just keep going; if I decide that I have to answer those questions after I’ve finished the story, I’ll do it when I rewrite.
You probably already knew these things, didn’t you? So did I, on an intellectual level. I’ve read Ann Lamott’s Bird By Bird, where she devotes an entire chapter to the “shitty first draft.” Hemingway said that “the first draft of anything is shit.” And one of the main axioms of writing is that “All writing is rewriting.”
But knowing something on an intellectual level is one thing. Believing it and having faith that you’ll be able to turn that shitty first draft (or second draft, or fifth draft) into a bestselling novel or an award-winning short story is something completely different. That requires having faith in yourself and in your craft.
That’s the hard part for me.
But still, I’ll keep going.