Friday, August 7, 2020

Two Connected Bits of Writing Advice from Ann Patchett and Sharon Darrow

As we near the end of our series of posts featuring favorite writing tips, I'm relieved none of the other TeachingAuthors has discussed the advice I'm sharing today. It's actually two bits of advice. I heard the first many years ago from one of my first writing teachers, Sharon Darrow. I'm paraphrasing her words here, but Sharon said:
When you're writing, imagine you're using a pencil that has an eraser on the end. Everything is fine as long as you focus on the writing--on keeping the pencil moving. But if you stop to erase (to edit), you'll stop the writing flow. There's no way to physically write and erase at the same time.

I recently heard Ann Patchett say something similar in an interview on the July 22, 2020 edition of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast. (I'm a big fan of Gretchen Rubin's podcast and books. I mentioned her book The Four Tendencies in my post 3 Aids for Creativity in the Time of the Coronavirus.)

In the podcast, Rubin and her sister, Elizabeth Craft interview Patchett about her bestselling adult novel, The Dutch House (Harper). The book is the latest Happier Podcast Book Club pick and the first Patchett novel I've read. (Note: the podcast interview contains lots of spoilers, so if you're planning to read The Dutch House, do it before listening to the podcast.) Near the end of the interview, Patchett shares several pieces of writing advice. Gretchen Rubin posted a graphic on her Instagram account of the tip I want to share with you today:

As Patchett says, there are times when we need to look at our work critically. But that comes later, after we have a solid draft. We need to make some art first so we'll have something to shape later.

When I'm working on a draft, I try to hold onto the image of the pencil moving across the page and resist the urge to "erase."

Don't forgot to check out this week's Poetry Friday round-up hosted by former TeachingAuthor Laura Purdie Salas.
Posted by Carmela


  1. Glad you found it helpful, Natalie!

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  3. Thanks for this good reminder, Carmela!

  4. Wonderful advice...especially as I'm having to make myself write in these distracted times. Thanks!

  5. Thanks for the feedback, Carol and Linda. I'm happy to help!

  6. Just the bit of writing wisdom I needed right now - Thanks, Carmela!

  7. I love the image of the pencil and its eraser. That will stick in my brain!


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