Novice writers usually think that having to rewrite is an admission of failure. A really good writer would write it right the first time.
Actually, expert writers revise more than novices. While novices tend to correct a word here or a comma there, experts can see many possibilities in a piece. They literally re-vision a piece, stripping away nonessentials and exploring new directions.
E. L. Doctorow’s struggle to write a note to excuse his daughter Caroline’s absence is an example. His first attempt began “My daughter, Caroline…” But, he reflected, that was redundant: “Who else would be writing a note for her?” Next he tried the standard “Please excuse….” but rejected that on the grounds that he shouldn’t have to plead her case: “She had a virus. She didn’t commit a crime.” After several more attempts failed to produce a note, his wife realized that Caroline would never get back to school unless she intervened. She dashed off a note and Carolyn left for class.
Helen Doctorow could write a brief note because she focused on the information her daughter’s teacher needed to know: Caroline had been absent because she had a cold. Her novelist husband would probably have found a letter easier to write than a note. With only a few lines to work with, he felt the need to weigh the implications of every word. After wrestling with Caroline’s excuse, he concluded. “Writing is very difficult, especially in the short form.”
Notes: Roger Rosenblatt describes E. L. Doctorow’s difficulty in writing an excuse for his daughter in “The Writer in the Family,” The New York Times Book Review (May 13, 2012).
Freedman, Dyson, Flower, and Chafe compared experts’ and novices’ revision patterns in “Research in Writing: Past, Present, and Future” (Technical Report No. 1, 1987). Available from National Center for the Study of Writing and Literacy Web site: http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/resource/585