Quotes from “Draft No. 4” by John McPhee

“The way to do a piece of writing is three or four times over, never once. For me, the hardest part comes first, getting something–anything– out in front of me. Sometimes in a nervous frenzy I just fling words as if I were flinging mud at a wall. Blurt out, heave out, babble out something–anything–as a first draft. With that, you have achieved a sort of nucleus. Then, as you work it over and alter it, you begin to shape sentences that score higher with the ear and eye.”

“Some dictionaries keep themselves trim by just listing synonyms and  not going on to make distinctions. You want the first kind, in which you are not just getting a list of words; you are being told the difference in their hues, as if you were looking at the stripes in an awning, each of a subtly different green.”

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One thought on “Quotes from “Draft No. 4” by John McPhee

  1. Making time…to draft. it really is where good or great writing becomes the sublime. I think our fear of making a piece worse or intractable through revision is completely unfounded. Or, perhaps, unnecessary to one’s character. No draft can truly harm a piece, just our perception of the piece.

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