Malcolm Gladwell: just get it down

Here’s Malcolm Gladwell talking about the importance of getting your writing down on the page and coming back later to revise, rather than waiting for it to be good enough to start writing. From his course on Masterclass.

“The perfect is the enemy of the good” is one of the most important aphorisms that I repeat to myself.

If you’re trying to produce the perfect piece, you’ll never produce it. So you have to accept the fact that your first couple of drafts are going to be bad. They’re always bad. By definition they’re bad. You don’t know what you’re doing yet. But it’s very very important to just go through the stage of just getting things on the page.

The act of explaining your argument, or telling your story, is how the story emerges. You figure out how to tell the story as you tell it. Necessarily. Responding to pieces that you think will work together don’t work together. Or pieces you think don’t work together do, unexpectedly. Or you find ways to link things just in the moment as you’re writing. So you have to trust that process. And just get things down.

So when I start I’m just getting things down on the page. And I have big gaps. Or if I have things I can’t resolve I just don’t resolve them. I’ll have a chapter of a book or something and I’ll just have two versions. I’ll just stick them in there and leave them. Keep going. And next time round I’ll decide which one works and then the next time round I’ll do another. I might go through it countless times. Dozens of times, sometimes. Each time I’m doing something different to it. And each time stopping well before I’m finished. Just so I don’t — I don’t want to get bogged down, and I don’t want to get sick of it. I want to keep coming back to it fresh.

Malcolm Gladwell, Masterclass


Leave a Reply