I LOVE things like this: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/manuscript-study-robert-lowells-epilogue
It reminds me that not everyone who’s admired just spits out Pulitzers.
The first time this concept gelled for me was when I saw a photo that George Stephanopoulos, Communications Director for President Bill Clinton, put in his own book, “All Too Human.” It illustrates this concept well. The photo doesn’t even show GS, whose job it was to deliver final drafts of speeches. It’s of Clinton, in the back of the limo, the door open, you can feel the tension as they are waiting for him to get out to get in the Capitol to deliver the State of the Union, already!, and he’s holding his script and a pen, poring over the paper, which is rampantly marked up with notes. There was not going to be any time to reload this into the teleprompter or reprint it, not with that many edits.
When I saw that photo, I thought, “Phew. OK.”
Because 1, this proves speechwriting is hard, and 2, even what you think is a final draft might not be perfect, or might not ever be “done.”
It’s like they say: a piece of art is only “done” when you walk away.
Sometimes, that’s the hardest part.