It is a truth universally acknowledged that most writing is rewriting. At least, most good writing is rewriting. Even if all of the ingredients are present in the first draft, it is the rewriting and editing that ensures the writing flows and the sentences sing. You may think that the best writers don’t need to rewrite, that it comes naturally to them, but the opposite tends to be true. If you don’t believe me, google ‘first drafts by famous writers.’ You will find hundreds of examples of first drafts by people like George Orwell and Charles Dickens, scrawled with copious notes and corrections. The best writers are rewriters, taking time to craft their work to perfection.
Perhaps it’s an occupational hazard, but I see a lot of parallels between writing and life. You can’t – and shouldn’t – expect to get everything right first time. Implementing changes is not a sign of failure or weakness, but an integral part of the process. We have to keep learning and developing if we are to reach anywhere near our full potential. We have to be aware of what can be improved and improve it through trial and error.
Wrangling the Characters
The most important editing we can do is deciding who we want to be the most influential characters in our lives. We can do this by paying more attention to the people who treat us with love and respect, who build us up instead of knocking us down. We can choose not to dwell on the bullies and critics, but on friends and mentors. I don’t mean to sound flippant – it takes a lot of work to come to terms with the pain we have suffered and to stop letting the people who inflicted that pain have such an impact on our lives. But you can do it; even if nobody in your life has ever shown you kindness, you can pay attention to role models you have never met and take inspiration from their actions.
Twisting the Plot
You can transform the plot of your life by setting and achieving goals. Again, I don’t mean to imply that this is easy and it’s likely that you will make mistakes along the way, but that’s all part of the process. By learning what doesn’t work, you get closer to discovering what does work. Okay, so you can’t change what has already happened, but you can reframe the past and learn from your experiences. In order to have a happy ending, you need to overcome obstacles.
Picking a Setting
You can move away, of course, but you can also change the setting of your life without changing your home. You just need to reinterpret the world around you. Cities like Paris, New York and London have been the settings for numerous stories – romances, comedies, thrillers and tragedies. The main difference between the cities’ portrayals in different genres is down to how the author interprets and fictionalises the city. If you look for crime and suffering, you can find it anywhere. If you look for love and kindness, you can find it anywhere. You cultivate what you choose.
You won’t have complete control over your ending, but when you live a life full of love, generosity, integrity, creativity and/or whatever else you value, every possible ending will contain those values and be bittersweet. On the other hand, if you refuse to search for the beauty and goodness in life, your ending will just be bitter. It’s your choice: accept a crappy first draft or edit your life.