Never send Taco Bell to someone who matters
If you’re a writer–a seasoned guru with muscular fingers from hours of exercise every day–you can go back to screwing around on Facebook rather than reading this. But you might want to read on and pass this to someone who might benefit.
I write. It’s what I would do a heck of a lot more than I do now if I were suddenly the recipient of huge sums of unearned money. I’d write. (I’d also work out and take a nap in the early afternoon, but that’s neither here not there.)
Not everyone who has to write is a writer. In the past couple weeks, I’ve gotten three requests from people to look over things they’ve written. That’s part of being a writer, too. Because these were family members and I’m a swell guy, I looked them over. And I realized one thing: there are basic rules of writing that you and I understand–and they don’t.
Rule number one: if you’re writing something that matters, never, ever submit a first draft. According to Hemingway, the first draft of anything is Taco Bell. (Okay, he didn’t say Taco Bell, but work with me here.) And if you’re trying to impress someone, you never send them Taco Bell. You might send them Outback or Chart House or Capital Grille. You might even send them Giordano’s authentic Chicago-style pizza, if you’re wise and they have taste. But you would never, ever send Taco Bell.
It’s the same thing with written material. If you’re writing something that’s really important, something you’re using to try to persuade someone to give you a job, give you an A, let you into an institution of higher learning–or even give you the key to the new locks she installed after you did that thing she asked you not to do–don’t send them a first draft.
Write it, set it down, and come back to it a couple of days later. The read it slowly, out loud. Look for things that make you wince. They’re there. They were there for Hemingway–hence the Taco Bell quote. And they’re there for you, too.
You’re likely to find that if you received that Stuffed Burrito Bel Grande, you’d reject it, too. Fortunately, with your fresh eyes, you can turn that fast food into a meal fit for a king. Or a hiring manager. Or your teacher. Or an admissions counselor.
Of the person with the key to the new locks.