Award-winning author E. Lockhart visited students in grades 7, 8, and 9 this spring, sharing her work, stories, and background. Students left intrigued about her life, eager to read more of her books and inspired for their own creative processes. Prior to her visit, students received copies of her New York Times bestselling books We Were Liars or Genuine Fraud.
E. Lockhart focused extensively on creativity and the creative process. Readers and viewers don’t always realize how much revision goes into a piece of art, whether it be a novel, painting, sculpture, or poem. Students were surprised to learn that E. Lockhart writes countless drafts—11 drafts, 15 drafts, even 21 drafts. After writing so many drafts, once she feels satisfied with the product, she sends it to her editor—who might request another six drafts. For one book, she often writes 26 drafts! She compared it to constantly chiseling a sculpture—she cuts characters out, adds new characters, changes the pace, deletes various scenes, alters the ending, rewrites the beginning. All of the shifting allows her to create a novel that moves in a direction that makes her happy—even if it is different than what she originally envisioned.
In other words, creativity isn’t the spontaneous process we often think it is. Sometimes we feel disappointed with a piece of art we created. Our work of art might not be a masterpiece, not because we are a bad artist, but because we need to shift and revise our piece a bit more—or a lot more. Art is a time-consuming process to create masterpieces.
Even when books create crazy characters or seemingly implausible situations, these events can be inspired by real life. E. Lockhart shared how her broken heart when she was in her 20s inspired the intensity of Cady in We Were Liars, who is struggling to discover why her love Gat is no longer speaking with her—and what happened.
Writing is a process. It finds its inspiration in real life, but where it ends is far from where it begins. And revisions, revisions, revisions are a very important part of the process.