A short interview with me about writing

It is with Writing Routines, here is the interview, here is one bit:

When you first sit down to write, how do you start?

The keyboard is the most useful part, though I will check my email and maybe Twitter first, so I don’t miss something big.

What’s your process for editing your own work?

I repeatedly edit it many times, at least ten. I just keep on doing it, until I can’t think of further improvements. I can’t say that is a process in any formal sense, simply a recognition that the “process” to date hasn’t worked very well and so it must continue. I don’t pretend this is efficient.

And this:

For better or worse, I just don’t have that many modes.


TC practices rewriting, good on him. But in my field, as a consultant, if you rewrite a work product too many times the client will not pay you and/or think of you as incompetent, even though the work product, like steel being annealed, is superior every time it is reworked and reworded. True, true. So you have to try and "get it right the first time" even though it's nigh near impossible to do so. Or close enough for malpractice and business purposes.

The rewrite occurs before you give it to the client. You wouldn't rewrite a brief after filing it with the court. Of course, there are times when there is no time (such as when writing a contract for a business transaction), although most contracts in those circumstances are written and reviewed and edited by more than one attorney working for the same client. Today, editing is quick and easy with word processing. I began my career before word processing (other than typewriters), which meant handwritten edits (in red ink) and then retyping the document in its entirety. The big innovation early in my career was the mag card machine, and our firm had a mag card department where the poor souls would type away to create the punch cards. That there are so many beautifully written essays, short stories, books, articles, legal opinions, and documents in the days before word processing is a testament to the careful drafting of the authors and the dedication of the typists - the latter no doubt the reason the typist often gets credit in the acknowledgment.

In my practice the information that's not publicly available is with the client, who must be interviewed. But if the interview and back-and-forth is too long or arduous, the client gets upset. It's a balancing act.

"The keyboard is the most useful part": and there was me thinking that you reached for your trumpet, the better to blow it.

Clever as usual, but Tyler's trumpet is worth listening to. Tyler has said that the most frequent question he gets is: how do you manage your time?

In fact I think he should repost that every single morning, so it's the first thing I see. It would motivate me to get to work.

“The keyboard is the most useful part”

after that, its grammar.

What Cowen likely means (by "The keyboard is the most useful part") is that the keyboard, and the process of typing, provides the inspiration for what he is writing. The hardest part of writing (or most any task) is getting started. I've found that once I've gotten started the words seem to flow, and with the words, the ideas (or whatever) I want to develop. Indeed, sometimes the ending is much different from what I had in mind when I started. Ideas are developed as well as transmitted through words, not grunts and groans.

You can write with the thesis in mind, to state the thesis and then add the introduction. In contractual writing, the thesis of the represented party is often both put in bold or up front but also hidden somewhere in a finer print. You can paint with the object in mind, and even make a sketch first, and then work to paint that object. You can with a feeling in mind, a model that has existed in your mind, and use the colors, and different kinds of paints, and then objects will appear, but at some point the conscious must make the objects to support the thesis. Rewriting is where you find logical inconstancies. You realize logic that is inconstant. You understand language that meant to gain leverage.

@prior_testN - well, you are a "Superstar Commentator" are you not?

I am also a rewriter and modern computers greatly facilitate this. I'll write several snippets and then rearrange, discard, etc. I imagine if you were writing by hand like in the old days there'd be far more incentive to write in one continuous stream with minimal revision. Not something I'm really used to doing. I have to say a lot of older writing is of excellent quality, even though it seems like they were at a great handicap. In particular, personal letters from pre-typewriter era are often impressively elegant. Was it common practice to do multiple hand drafts for their letters? Or did they, out of necessity, cultivate the skill of continuous writing?

Am I going crazy or did he post this same interview a week ago?

Smart move write again

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