Advice from the Masters: Joshua Wolf Shenk

Sep 3, 2014 | Writing A Book

Joshua Wolf Shenk has written books about Abe Lincoln’s depression and about innovation. In the course of writing the Lincoln book, he learned something important about writing a book. I’ll let him tell you.

“Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly.”

If you’re thinking about writing a book, write the book. You won’t know what you’ve got or what it might grow into until you get it out, down, and done. Only then can you do great things with it.

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