Why Jeff Goins Believes All Good Writing is Re-Writing

Editor’s Note: I’m pleased to feature this interview with author Jeff Goins as part of the Winning Edits Expert Interview Series.

Goins is a writer, idea guy, and difference-maker. He lives in Nashville with his wife and dog. His first print book, Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into Your Comfortable Life, comes out in August 2012.

You can connect with Goins on his blog (Goins, Writer), take his free blogging course, or follow Goins on Twitter.

Matt Gartland: “Why do writers write?” was one of the burning questions that led you to begin your blog back in 2010. After 350+ posts, an avalanche of reader engagement commentary and attention from high profile writers (e.g. Seth Godin), what answers have you founded and what remains unanswered?

Jeff Goins: Writers write because they have something to say. It’s not about answering questions; it’s about posing them.

The kind of writing that I’m interested in is about mystery and intrigue, about causing people to think (and hopefully, act) differently.

After hundreds of posts on this blog (and thousands more elsewhere), I’m convinced of this: writers write because it’s impossible not to. This is the mark of anyone who truly feels called to a craft.

MG: You’ve attracted a very loyal following in not that long a period of time. Was there a particular “tipping point” moment in your journey? And what lessons learned can you share that may benefit other writers striving to increase their reader reach and impact?

JG: I don’t think so. If there was, I didn’t notice it. The growth was all about incremental change. I did see some specific spikes, though.

One was when I released my eBook, The Writer’s Manifesto, which is still free and getting hundreds of daily downloads.

Another was when one of my off-topic posts on travel went viral, getting over 90,000 “likes” on Facebook. I still see hundreds of daily visitors, thanks to that post.

But for the most, it’s just about showing up every day, doing something you love, and trusting people are paying attention.

MG: I find your crisp, direct and uncomplicated writing style very appealing and motivating. Has this always been your style, or have you had to work hard to achieve this level of sharp skill? And do you see it as one of your stronger assets in connecting with readers?

JG: Actually, it hasn’t. In fact, it’s not even how I talk. It is, however, how I think.

If you were to sit down with me over coffee, you’d be surprised at how verbose I am. I’m always searching for words and verbally processing—it’s very confusing.

That’s why I like writing—because it allows me the luxury of deleting what I don’t want to say.

I relate to this Mark Twain quote: “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.”

MG: You made the fascinating comment to Corbett Barr recently that “all good writing is re-writing.” Can you share more about your perspectives on the value of editing and why such re-writing is necessary to become a more accomplished writer.

JG: The more I write, the more I believe this is true.

In college, I read Anne Lamott’s Shitty First Drafts and it set me free from the belief that the first thing I wrote had to be good. Years later, as I am writing books now, I am relearning this lesson.

I still struggle with the internal editor, that self-censuring part that wants to make every first draft perfect.

But there is something beautiful about throwing together a bunch of words very chaotically, and then trying to make sense of them.

I am a much better editor than writer. Most of us are.

MG: What’s the #1 piece of actionable advice you’d give to writers aspiring to quickly improve their writing’s crispness with the intent of captivating more reader hearts and minds?

JG: Three words: Cut the crap.

Images provided by and used with permission from the interviewee.