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The Chisel or the Sledgehammer?

Subtitle
Extract gold nuggets out of your mangled sentences
Date
Oct 18, 2021
Type
Notes
Words
465

So you've just completed your first draft. Time to edit. You know your piece could be so much better. But how?

The sentences look frozen, nearly impossible to change. Each one whispers, "Please go easy on me!" You have an arsenal of tools available in your editing shed. A full restructure with the mighty sledgehammer or small tweaks with the careful chisel? You know your piece needs work, and you eye the sledgehammer. But a cocktail of anxieties draws you to the chisel:

  • Logistically, a re-structure seems like brain surgery.
  • Psychologically, we're tired, and resist the idea of "starting over."
  • Emotionally, we're defeated, (because we're comparing our vomit draft to David Foster Wallace's fifth draft) and we just want to ship it.

The chisel seems like the easier path, but your best writing comes from the courage to swing the sledgehammer.

Our problem is that we fall in love with our first draft. We spend so much time crafting and polishing a full-story before we even discover the juicy idea. The Writing Studio is designed to help you fall in love with your sledgehammer . During the first 3 weeks, you'll create seven drafts, but there's a catch: Each one has a constraint (250-500 words). They're easy to make, so we won’t be clingy.

We'll strategically smash these mini-assignments with our sledgehammer. The goal isn't to chisel words or perfect structure. The goal is to look through the scraps and find the needles in the haystack.

What emerged? We're looking for surprise, novelty, personality, and undiscovered wells of dopamine. We pluck out the gems from the rubble, and leave the mangled sentences behind. Once we've gathered these shards of gold, we're ready for structure.

Structure is more intimidating than it seems. Regardless of your idea, there's a simple toolkit to make your most abstract ideas read like smooth gravy to strangers. There are tricks to emphasize the main idea. There are tricks to orient the reader as they wander a forest of details. There's a science to clarity. There's a science to curiosity. Mathematicians even have formulas that predict the readability of your essay. By mastering a simple science, you can excel in your art.

With your gold shards and a structural know-how, drafting is like bowling with bumpers. You can't lose. Only then do we reach out for our old friend, the chisel.

The Writing Studio is about:

  • Learning how to quickly write & deconstruct drafts to find ideas that matter
  • Internalizing six principles around structure through visual exercises
  • Fusing both of these ideas together to bring speed and quality to our writing

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