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Saturday, 4 October 2014

WRITERS. THE BEST AND WORST CRITICS OF OUR WORK: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

This piece I wrote was great, though that piece I wrote was shit.
   Opinions change.
   That piece I wrote was great, though this piece I wrote was shit.
   And so on.
   One of the influences on this blog was the broadcaster Alistair Cooke. I well-remember a talk he gave on the Supreme Court of the United States and its sloth-like struggle to set views down in law.
   (The internet tells me Cooke's talk was from the 25th of June, 1999.)
   Cooke spoke of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Tom Clancy did not give us the phrase clear and present danger. Step forth, Oliver, and be recognised.
   Wendell Holmes, a Civil War veteran to whose name we must add Junior, was in the habit of writing profound statements. His words would affect the good and bad citizens of the USA.
   He found that writing the piece and leaving it for a few days was no good. Other judges on the panel wondered at the effectiveness of a decision written in unseemly haste.
   Holmes was in the habit of writing his legal decision at one sitting. Letting it lie overnight or across a weekend was good enough for him, if not for his colleagues.
   To get around this problem, Holmes changed his routine. Oh, he did the same thing as usual. He penned the decision in one go - not letting the next dawn rise on his efforts midstream, as it were.
   Then Holmes changed tack. He let the piece lie in a drawer for three months. This allowed the decision to age in the wood.
   His colleagues, let in on the work further down the line, must have thought Holmes possessed of the wisdom of Solomon.
   What's my point?
   As soon as you write a piece, you might love it to bits or hate it to pieces. So shove it in a digital drawer for a little while. Return to it. Read over what you've written. Fix any obvious blunders. And then release the piece to the world.
   The world will form its own views. And those may change with time. So don't concern yourself overmuch with opinions. You write the story you were meant to write...
   Don't let your best and worst critic get in the way of that story. Be there when you write it, and walk away when you are done.
   

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