One of my college writing professors drilled this into our heads, and I confess it’s one of the few lines I remember from that class. But it has served me well in times of writing—especially when writing ad copy, where the allocated space is so spare. Every word simply must do its job. Every nuance has to be considered. We often have full-on discussions about a single word or phrase.
Did they clamor or bellow? Was it disturbing or agitating? Did he flinch or recoil? See how each word has a slightly different meaning?
Writing isn’t unlike gardening, for those of you warm to that metaphor. It takes patience, tending, and lots of weeding (sometimes even replanting). It’s also like cooking. It often has to marinate to get the full flavor.
So don’t be discouraged if the first words out aren’t show-stoppers. They rarely are. But they often give birth to the perfect word, given time and effort. And that’s the difference between ordinary writing and great writing.