Wisdom from “The Simpsons”
The following gem comes from John Swartzwelder, “the sage of The Simpsons,” courtesy of my friend Charlie Daly who turned me on to the May 2, 2021 New Yorker interview by Mike Sacks from which this comes:
But I do have a trick that makes things easier for me. Since writing is very hard and rewriting is comparatively easy and rather fun, I always write my scripts all the way through as fast as I can, the first day, if possible, putting in crap jokes and pattern dialogue—“Homer, I don’t want you to do that.” “Then I won’t do it.” Then the next day, when I get up, the script’s been written. It’s lousy, but it’s a script. The hard part is done. It’s like a crappy little elf has snuck into my office and badly done all my work for me, and then left with a tip of his crappy hat. All I have to do from that point on is fix it. So I’ve taken a very hard job, writing, and turned it into an easy one, rewriting, overnight. I advise all writers to do their scripts and other writing this way. And be sure to send me a small royalty every time you do it.
I work exactly the same way. My version of John S’s principle is “Cover the Canvas.” By which I mean, “Get paint on every inch of the blank surface, north to south and east to west, in one head-down burst of stop-for-nothing momentum. We can always fix it later. That’s how to write a first draft.”
Of course the first draft of a novel may take not a single day but months. The principle remains the same, however. It’s easier to rewrite than to write. So get the writing part out of the way first. Get through the pain.
Get SOMETHING on paper (or canvas), however deficient or incomplete. THEN go back and fix it. Then go back and make it great.
(Remember, you’ve got an infinite number of drafts in which to accomplish this.)
Thank you, John Swartzwelder. Thank you, Mike Sacks. And thanks, Charlie Daly!