Before I decided that children's books were the best thing ever, I studied architecture. For the record, architecture is pretty great too.
The Assistant Dean was my design instructor during my freshman year at Lawrence Tech University. It was supposed to be an easy class. One of our first assignments was to create a poster for a fashion show. Before we proceeded to final art, the instructor had to approve our design direction.
I adored the first idea I submitted.
My instructor sent me back to the drawing board.
I came up with another idea. He declined it.
We repeated this again and again and again.
Soon everyone else was painting—and finishing!—their finals, but I was still sketching.
Some students produced great designs. There were also lots of not-great designs he approved with no revisions required. Frustrated, I went to him. The words he said turned out to be one of the greatest lessons I've ever learned.
He said, "I decided to teach you a more important lesson."
This was not what eighteen year old me wanted to hear.
He went on, "In real life you will never get to use your first idea. You will rarely get to use your second, third or fourth. If you can learn to approach each rendition of a project with a good attitude and equal passion and enthusiasm…if you believe you can always produce a result better than the last, you'll go far."
At the time, I was less than flattered. My ears were steaming. I didn't want to learn a different lesson. I wanted an A on this lesson. Thankfully there was a wiser part of my brain that perked up and took good notes.
It took twenty years to have another conversation as helpful as that one was.
Lately I've been pondering how very much his advice applies to the realm of writing. Instead of getting that easy A on the first shot, I've been relearning the value of the process. And that you can't get to the end version without first taking the journey through the others. And that the winding road, while sometimes torturous, is also ridiculously fun.