Lost in translation: Siri’s ideas about writing

“James says he writes the first draft you really quickly and doesn’t look back at it until it’s done right to And then he writes it 10 times.”

Fenway's transcription might make as much sense as Siri's ideasOne of the podcasts I listened to a couple of weeks ago gave me some great ideas for a blog, so I asked Siri to take a note. I might have done better to ask Fenway:

“Woof woof woof, grrr…”

No, she doesn’t growl—unless you’re a squirrel. But I digress.

If I pulled over every time someone says something interesting on a podcast, I’d never get anywhere. Perhaps someday I’ll be rich enough to have an assistant travel with me everywhere, notetaking app in hand, to capture every brilliant thought as it happens. Until then, to paraphrase someone who can afford a traveling assistant but lacks the thoughts worth capturing, “Siri—you’re not fired.”

Siri’s ideas about writing, translated

So here’s my wisdom for you today: Someone named James, or perhaps someone on The James Altucher Show, says he writes the first draft really quickly and doesn’t look back at it. I give the same advice to my writers—at least for the duration of their 15 minutes a day of writing: Don’t stop to edit. But this Mystery Writer doesn’t just write for 15 minutes. He writes the whole damn draft. And as I recall, we were talking about book-length works here, not little blog posts.

But after the first draft is done? Well, then all bets are off. He will rewrite his book ten to thirteen times (13 is not a number you forget easily, unless you’re Siri).

Hyperbole? I don’t know. Often my second drafts end up as major overhauls of the first, but I can’t imagine I would need to strip it down to the studs eleven more times. Is this a case of rampant perfectionism? An unwillingness to let go? Or is Draft 13 really that significantly better than Draft 3?

So, lessons:

  • Write until you’re done.
  • Edit, absolutely.
  • Be willing to abandon most of what you’ve written (not into the Trash, into the Outtakes folder)
  • But also recognize and celebrate the good parts.

Oh, and one more: Review and edit Siri’s ideas the same day. Well, only if I want them to make any sense.


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