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Nick Barron

Learning a Lesson By Listening to Tim Weaver Talk About How He Writes

Author Tim Weaver recently busted some oft-repeated writing advice on The Writer’s Routine.

“I always like to re-read and re-edit, if necessary, what I’ve written that day before I start the next day,” Weaver said.

Tim Weaver
Tim Weaver

Many creative writers subscribe and prescribe to the idea that you should get your first draft down before editing.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King said he doesn’t edit while writing.

“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open,” King wrote.

And that’s the advice I followed when trying to write my first novel. I started it a few years ago. Back then, I had a regular job requiring me to be in the office, so I woke early, had coffee, read a poem or two, and then started writing. I didn’t edit or re-read a single thing I wrote.

After a few months, I had about 70,000 words down. I started feeling the book’s end coming. I could almost see it. Taste it.

But while writing one morning, something I wrote made me laugh. The problem was that I was writing a horror novel, not a comedy. This was a pivotal scene when the reader should be on the edge of their seat, hair on their arms on end, and yet I wrote something funny, not scary.

So, I paused writing and started re-reading my first draft. I wanted to know why I wrote something humorous instead of horror-y.

What I realized is that my novel’s first draft was a mess. There were storylines I’d dropped or added, characters’ names I changed, and entire chapters that didn’t make any sense.

Overwhelmed, I set the novel aside for a bit. I told myself I’d let a little time pass. Then I’d return and whip it into shape. But every time I tried to rework the story, doubt, stress, and confusion beset me. Then I lost interest in the story.

Today that first draft remains at 70,000 unfinished, sloppy words.

Your Writing Process Is the Right Writing Process

Listening to Tim Weaver on The Writer’s Routine, I realized I’d lost the forest for the trees.

I was so intent on following the advice I’d seen so many writers give to get my first draft down before editing that I lost sight of the main goal: To write stories. What does it matter if I follow a recommended process if that process doesn’t result in me finishing a story?

Weaver doesn’t wait until he’s written a first draft before editing it.

“I’m definitely not a vomit draft kind of guy,” he told The Writer’s Routine host Dan Simpson. “I’ve got a borderline slight obsession with making a chapter as good as it can possibly be before I move on.”

Writing my first novel, I churned out 70,000 words without re-reading or editing. Then I became overwhelmed when I realized the story needed reworking.

Maybe I would’ve finished the thing if I’d edited as I wrote instead of letting all those words pile up without knowing if they worked as a story.

Of course, there are many possibilities here. For example, whether I edited it as I wrote it or not, my story may be terrible. Or, perhaps if I’d edited as I wrote, I would’ve gotten bogged down and never finished the novel.

Who knows?

The point is that I was more committed to following what I believed was the “right” way to write instead of feeling free to choose my way to write. And that’s something Tim Weaver helped me realize.

The best writing process is the one that works for you, the one that enables you to write the best (and finished) story you can write.

A New Newsletter to Entertain and Inspire Creatives

It’s easy to think everything that should exist does exist. But then you try to find something you need and can’t.

I searched and searched for some way to get a regularly updated list of artist profiles, interviews, and stuff about people creating art.

Eightish logo

Some media outlets and newsletters publish this type of content, but they focus on one art form. This place does author interviews. This place talks to filmmakers. I’m a writer, but I get inspiration and guidance from artists of many mediums.

And it’s hard to read/watch/listen to everything. I wanted someplace that regularly curated content about creatives and their art, regardless of form.

But I couldn’t find that thing, so I started doing it myself. Then I wondered if others were looking for something like this, too.

Introducing Eightish, a newsletter to entertain and inspire creative people.

Each week, I compile a list of eight or so things that helped me as an artist. Think of an author interview, a profile of an actor, or maybe even a video of someone painting.

Also, movie trailers! Because movie trailers can be fun to watch and get you feeling the feels.

Check out the first issue of Eightish to see what I mean. And if you enjoy it, go ahead and subscribe.

You’ll get an email like this one from me every Thursday morning. No spam, marketing stuff, or any of that junk. Just things that helped me creatively throughout the week that also might help you. Presented in a fun, laid-back way.

And you can earn points by referring others to Eightish. You’ll join Club Eightish when you do, a referral program launching soon that will reward you with free stuff the more points you earn.

Come because you’re curious, and I hope you’ll find a reason to subscribe to Eightish. Then maybe you tell others about it.

So, what do you say? Are you ready to get Eightish? If so, subscribe below.

Martin Falck on Balancing Art and Making Money

To paraphrase Jane Austen, in a capitalist society, it is a truth not so universally acknowledged that a creative person without a good fortune is always balancing practicing their art with making money.

Someone balancing while walking across the top of a wooden fence.
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

There’s the cliché of an actor waiting tables. Or, in Michael R. Jackson’s case, a burgeoning playwright who worked as an usher.

And there are people like me working so-called middle-class jobs while dreaming of publishing novels, having galleries show our work, or seeing our screenplays turned into movies and shows.

We do something someone is willing to give us money to do that lets us take some vacations while paying off our student loans, but it’s not our passion. It’s not what revs the engines inside us.

That doesn’t mean we’re not good at what we do for money. It doesn’t even mean we don’t enjoy our jobs. At least part of them. Sometimes.

But we’re a little like Beanie Feldstein in “Funny Girl.” Miscast. Who knows why?

Maybe we discovered our art late. Maybe we don’t come from money. Some of us followed our parents’ dreams for us instead of our own. And others of us aren’t willing to live off canned tuna while sharing a shoebox with three roommates. 

So how do we balance earning money with being creative?

Martin Falck’s Artistic Balancing Act

I love how Martin Falck, a creative director/screenwriter/graphic designer who I definitely had not heard of until now, describes how he does it:

“I take on every project and try to look at it as if there is one thing in it that I can teach myself, and I try to stay very true to that. I try to really explore something and learn something in every project.”

Right on. 

We’ve gotta pay the bills. We’ve gotta eat. This means we gotta do something someone is willing to give us money to do, at least until the revolution. 

But that doesn’t mean we must despise or down-vote our for-pay work. Instead, we can identify something we’ll learn from doing a job that interests us. Maybe even something that can aid our artistic pursuits.

For example, I know SEO (search engine optimization) really well because I’ve had to learn it for my career. You don’t need to know SEO to write a novel. But knowing SEO can help get eyes on your book when it publishes.

And Falck has something for self-employed freelancers like me. 

After saying he tries to “learn something in every project,” Falck adds, “That’s the most honest way to treat my clients because it keeps me very connected to the project, and it gives me something of my own, which I can explore, which is mine.”

This is a great phrase: “the most honest way to treat my clients.” It acknowledges a guilt I’ve felt since I started full-time freelancing three years ago while also giving a constructive avenue for that guilt.

My guilt is that I’m not obsessed with the work I do for clients (freelance writing, content strategy, newsletters, etc.). I want to do a bang-up job for them. And if I take a client’s money, I feel as if I should be obsessed with what I’m doing for them. 

No matter how hard I try, I can’t make myself passionate about writing sales collateral. So, instead, I beat myself up. I call myself a fraud and question why anyone should hire me because I’m not binging all things communications and content marketing.

But Martin Falck says we don’t have to pretend we’re obsessed with everything we do for our clients. We can be true to ourselves and our clients by focusing on something we can learn and explore in every project.

What a relief.

Poets Work Really, Super Hard

Did you know it can take years to write a poem? That’s what poet Timmy Straw told The Paris Review.

Person welding while wearing a welding mask.
Photo by Aman Jakhar on Unsplash

For example, Straw said he wrote the first draft of his “The Thomas Salto” poem in 2016. He then spent six years working on the poem, which went through “probably fifteen-plus inadequate iterations” before Straw had “something I can live with.”

It’s hard to imagine working on any piece of writing for six years, especially a poem. Because, you know, poems tend to be short. 

So how does a poet spend years working on one little poem?

Let’s look at how Maggie Smith edited one of her poems. Smith uses her newsletter to show her work occasionally, and she shared her annotations for her poem, “How Dark the Beginning.”

The piece contains 17 lines, and Smith marked up nearly every single one. 

Regarding one line, Smith annotated, “This line has its own integrity and meaning before we get to the rest of the sentence.” And in other places, she noted how certain words sounded when read (“’B’ alliteration long ‘A’ assonance across lines”).

I don’t even know what any of that means.

To edit “How Dark the Beginning,” Smith said she repeatedly read the poem aloud to herself. 

“I revised word choices to play up assonance or slant rhyme (‘dragging its shadow’ capitalizes on the short A assonance, while the verbs ‘hauling’ or ‘pulling’ wouldn’t do that).”

Maggie Smith

It’s an incredible breakdown of how one poet revised one poem. And it’s a reminder that poets, who undoubtedly dress in all black and wear berets, work ridiculously hard.