I used to hate rewriting. I love the creative flow of putting down the first draft. But not rewriting. The way the ideas, character arcs, plot devices and all the other details that make up a story come through to me is a rush. A high. Definitely an altered state of consciousness that is pleasurable in its own right and made even more so because of its outcome - a completed rough draft (or chapter or section or scene or whatever it is that I'm working on that day).
But then I have to rewrite. The time that flies by as I write the first draft now drags. The eagerness I approached my task as I wrote is now gone. I feel like I'm hacking away at my beautiful work, its precious ideas. I know my first draft is - by no means - perfect. But I see the beauty of its imperfection. Its awkward angles stand out like a half-hewn statue. Its uneven pace is like a toddler taking its first steps. It is a thing coming into itself and that process is delicate and gentle and unique. Never to be repeated in exactly the same way ever again.
However, as promising as the story is at that stage, it needs work. It can't grow on it own. It needs guidance. It needs polishing. I used to hate polishing. I felt like I was grinding down the details that made the story its own creature. I was stripping away its memorable and distinct qualities. Because of that, I hated rewriting. I plodded my way through it. I forced myself to do it. I felt like I was grinding myself down as I polished the story. And, to no one's surprise, the work wasn't as good. The stories were flatter, more predictable, more generic.
But that was four finished books and several dozen rough drafts along with a handful of short stories and their multiple drafts ago. Now, I look forward to rewriting. I am excited to finish the rough draft so that I can get my hands back in the clay, so to speak. With a fresh perspective, a new take, a different look at the material. Elements of the story that I had not consciously put in now jump out at me. I have several "ah ha" moments as I make new connections and the story grows fuller not lesser, more itself not less. Finishing the rough draft for me - now - is the true starting point of the story. The rough draft, as I rewrite it, begins to clarify and crystalize and shine with its own internal light and logic. When that light shines just so, I know the story done.
That's the joy of rewriting.