There are several different ways of getting gold from the ground. On one end of the spectrum is open-pit mining where they blast huge sections of dirt with dynamite and then screen and process the rubble. On the other is panning, where silt is taken from a river bank and flecks of gold are tediously pulled one speck at a time from the pan.
I am under the impression that most writers use a “panning” type approach to getting their words on to the page. They allow thoughts to swirl around in their heads until they can pluck out the golden tidbits. This takes huge amounts of time during the initial drafting phase because each word has been carefully considered before being typed. When the drafting phase is over there are very few major changes or rewrites that need to be made
Mine is a different approach, I tend to draft the same way an open-pit mine obtains their precious minerals, by shoveling out huge amounts of rubble on the page. Later, I return to pick out all the good bits and discard or reshape the rest. Some days I get more rubble than gold, but some days I strike it rich. It’s hard to tell when the words and thoughts will flow.
This might seem like a terrific waste of time but it has its benefits. An open-pit mine reaps much more than the target mineral. I happen to live a few miles off from the Kennecott copper mine, the second largest producer of copper in the country and the largest man-made excavation on the planet – it can be seen from space. Every year they pull out around 300,000 tons of copper. In addition to copper they also get the following:
- 500,000 ounces of gold
- 4 million ounces of silver
- 30 million pounds of molybdenum
While “open-pit” writing might seem unproductive at first, it often generates valuable ideas, information, and material that can be used to strengthen the work. Some of these ideas will never make it to the final edit, but they add flavor and depth to the world.
I’m curious if I’m right – how many of you consider yourselves “panners” vs. “open-pit” writers?