Sanding the roughness

I am in the middle of reading: “A Writer’s Coach” by Jack Hart. I love that he is from Portland and at the time of the printing was a managing editor and writer coach for The Oregonian.

On page 39, there is a paragraph on writing that resonates with me: “A writer who attended one of my workshops passed along this beautiful metaphor:”

Years ago I used to futz with every sentence, but then an editor told me something that really made sense. He said that when a carpenter builds a piece of furniture he doesn’t first make one side, perfect that, and then construct another side and perfect that. He must build the entre frame and then go back and put the finishing touches on each section. Even when I am on deadline, I think of what I write first as an imperfect frame that will be improved later.

This inspired me and reminded me of when I took shop class in middle school. I think we had to do a cooking class, sewing, and shop class. I actually loved them all. I love to bake, I am not half bad behind a sewing machine (although I hated threading them in middle school, these days they practically thread themselves). However, shop class reminded me of my dad, and his warehouse/garage. My dad was a carpenter/contractor and he had lots of tools, and I often watched him build things. In shop class, we built wooden bowls, made out of scrap wood glued together. We started with a block of 5-10 kinds of wood and we used a lathe and dug out the shape and form of the inside and outside of the bowl. Once we were happy with the shape, then we started sanding.

Just as with wood, we have to sand out writing. Whether a book, business report, ad campaign, blog, etc, after the shape has formed we can go back and smooth out the edges and roughness. Not all imperfections should be removed. Imperfections can give character, depending on the flaw. I still have my bowl, and because we used scrap wood, not every piece was perfect. I still look at that bowl and love the little imperfections in the wood. I fell in love with wood that quarter, and I have fallen in love with writing.

bowl from middle school shop class

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