Learning from Khaled Hosseni.


Wow, you guys, this is the last post in the “Learning From” series. Crazy, right? I know I’ve learned a lot and been encouraged by hearing from all of these amazing people who are walking ahead of me down this writing path.

So, without further ado, the final quote.

I don’t outline at all, I don’t find it useful, and I don’t like the way it boxes me in. I like the element of surprise and spontaneity, of letting the story find its own way. For this reason, I find that writing a first draft is very difficult and laborious. It is also often quite disappointing. It hardly ever turns out to be what I thought it was, and it usually falls quite short of the ideal I held in my mind when I began writing it. I love to rewrite, however. A first draft is really just a sketch on which I add layer and dimension and shade and nuance and color. Writing for me is largely about rewriting. It is during this process that I discover hidden meanings, connections, and possibilities that I missed the first time around. In rewriting, I hope to see the story getting closer to what my original hopes for it were.

I have met so many people who say they’ve got a book in them, but they’ve never written a word. To be a writer — this may seem trite, I realize — you have to actually write. You have to write every day, and you have to write whether you feel like it or not. Perhaps most importantly, write for an audience of one — yourself. Write the story you need to tell and want to read. It’s impossible to know what others want so don’t waste time trying to guess. Just write about the things that get under your skin and keep you up at night.

I love what he has to say about first drafts and rewriting. It is especially resonant for me when I apply this thinking to my NaNoWriMo efforts. Anybody who has participated in NaNo knows that the first draft is difficult, and often ends up far away from what was originally intended, especially if you’re a pantser. So it’s encouraging to think of it as simply a sketch; the first basic idea, and the place where you experiment with what works and what doesn’t.

It’s also a good reminder for me any time I hear people who talk about rewriting in a positive tone. For so many years, I subconsciously thought that what rewriting meant was that you got it wrong the first time.


I finished an essay (or rather, finally decided to lay it down) last night, after about twelve or thirteen drafts, and let me tell you, most of those drafts were a sheer joy to work on. I never lost confidence in any of the things I had to say, or felt like they were somehow “wrong.” I simply kept on finding better ways to say them. Now if I can only manage to hang on to that attitude when I tackle my NaNovel again. That’s the next thing on my agenda, and I’m sort of dreading it.

But I can do it, people. I can. I’m a total Amazon woman, and a darned good writer to boot. Bring it on, ugly first draft.

(Oh, golly, I just had a thought: I’m going to have to start actually thinking about what to write on Thursdays again. Oh well, I already have a few ideas, so that will get me back into the swing of things.)



This post is the twelfth and last in a series based on this article by James Clear, featuring quotes and reflections on the routines of twelve famous authors.


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