Published: May 29, 2019 12:06:00 PM

what-made-your-brain-like-this

Nobody taught you how to self-edit 

Ancient proverbs tell us stories of men and fishermen, and the craft and the hunger that separates them.

If somebody could teach me to the skill of actively draft and self-edit, would I eat for a lifetime? In a creative capacity, why do we focus on production instead of iteration? Why are we troubled by our ramshackle first attempts?

I don't imagine any of us assume a work of art, or writing, or any creativity will spring forth fully-formed. The rightful question is: why are we so diligently schooled in the craft of creation, but not iteration? 

Iteration embodies a wastefulness stigma 

An answer crystallizes in my mind: only recently has the iteration become marketable. Until the dawn of the always-on era, where speculation and social media are raw materials for escape-ready eyeballs, countless versions of books, music, and film went unseen. Entire drafts of great novels likely went unpublished. Music albums were mixed in secret before being unceremoniously trash-canned, written off as experimental.

We were never taught to iterate because iteration was once simply an unspoken component of creation. It occurred in the tortured dark. Nobody taught you to truly consider self-editing because you aren't supposed to let anyone know you edit anything. The audience wasn't supposed to see failed outputs, even when on a longer timeline, those productions may lead to truer success.

Today, hiding iteration is wastefulness. Iteration is untapped content. We are only recently becoming comfortable with presenting raw, unfinished content and passing it off for palatable production while the real thing continues baking. The ink isn't dry on that social contract reading: "give us everything, or starve." The exchange for using the half-finished in-between work, the rough drafts and sketchy outlines, is for creative immortality. The audience now knows the creator is imperfect, uncertain, and often fearful.

Just like the audience.

We were not taught to iterate because we don't talk about iteration. Except now we do. Now we must.

-- Alex Crumb
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