Real writers don’t take kindly to being edited

Over the holiday break I read the new Kurt Vonnegut biography, And So It Goes, and was tickled to find a couple of references to Vital Speeches friend Bob Lehrman, who attended Vonnegut’s classes at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in the mid ’60s. Lehrman, who would go on to write speeches for Al Gore and other luminaries, asked Vonnegut to sign a book.

Vonnegut obliged: “To Robert who, as a student of mine, would not change one fucking word of anything he wrote. He may have been right, but I doubt it. Anyway, love, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.”

As a speechwriter, Lehrman no doubt went on to take many edits from much lesser lights. But I think his youthful stubbornness was a good sign.

It’s obviously a practical necessity for speechwriters to deal gracefully with editorial advice from all manner of people in the organization. But it should never become a point of pride. Pride should be reserved for your brave and intellectually pure first draft. —DM

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