Notes : Peter Elbow on writing

A brilliant note on writing by Peter Elbow in his book “Writing Without Teachers”. He could be as well as speaking about drawing here.

“Instead of a two-step transaction of meaning-into-language, think of writing as an organic, developmental process in which you start writing at the very beginning – before you know your meaning at all – and encourage your words gradually to change and evolve. Only at the end will you know what you want to say or the words you want to say it with. You should expect yourself to end up somewhere different from where you started. Meaning is not what you start out with but what you end up with. Control, coherence, and knowing your mind are not what you start out with but what you end up with. Think of writing then not as a way to transmit a message but as a way to grow and cook a message. Writing is a way to end up thinking something you couldn’t have started out thinking. Writing is, in fact, a transaction with words whereby you free yourself from what you presently think, feel, and perceive. You make available to yourself something better than what you’d be stuck with if you’d actually succeeded in making your meaning clear at the start. What looks inefficient – a rambling process with lots of writing and lots of throwing away – is really efficient since it’s the best way you can work up to what you really want to say and how to say it. The real inefficiency is to beat your head against the brick wall of trying to say what you mean or trying to say it well before you are ready.”

Thanks to this piece by Sara Hendren which led me to this quote and the book by Peter Elbow