July 3, 2019

There are no shortcuts to writing a great novel, a great history book, or a great song.

I found yet another example of

that truism in the 2013

documentary History of the

Eagles. In Part 1, Eagles

frontman Glenn Frey discusses

how rocker Bob Seger took him

under his wing early in his

career. Seger was the first

musician Frey met who wrote

his own material. Seger urged

Frey to write his own songs too.

“What if they’re not any good?”

Frey asked.

“They’re going to be bad,” Seger replied. “Keep writing until they’re good.”

Later, Jackson Browne moved into the basement apartment below Frey and bandmate and roommate at the time, J. D. Souther. Frey would hear Browne’s teapot whistle at 9 a.m. every morning. Browne then sat at his piano and played the same verse over and over—20 times or more—until Browne had it just right. After a lull, Frey heard Browne’s teapot whistle again. And Browne would begin work on the second verse, playing it over and over—20 times or more—until he had it just as he wanted it.

“So that’s how you write a song,” Frey said to himself. “Elbow grease!”

Frey would go on to write or cowrite dozens of top songs.

Knowing your first 10 or 20 takes are going to be bad and plenty of elbow grease are the keys to every creative endeavor. Those who have read my book, Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! know my refrain, “The magic is in the rewrite.” Or, as Seger said, “They’re going to be bad. Keep writing until they’re good.” Or, in the words of prolific novelist James Mitchner, "I'm not a very good writer, but I'm an excellent rewriter." It takes perseverance and elbow grease to write a great song, a great letter, or a great novel.

I can’t help you write music or fiction. But I can inspire, motivate, and instruct if you wish to write non-fiction prose clearly, concisely, and consistently. Sign up for my newsletter. Good things are in the works, including 52 weekly motivational quotes for writers and a 10-week online course, the Writing Accountability Project.

See you on the other side of the notebook.


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Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.​​

“Keep Writing Until They’re Good”

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