My crusty old journalism instructor put it bluntly: "There's no such thing as good writing. Only good rewriting."
No matter how smoothly I composed the first draft of any article, my instructor would send it back to me for a rewrite. He didn't want any of us to fall prey to premature success. (I never saw that a serious threat.) But I have learned to appreciate his eye for first-draft failures and their value as essential ingredients for eventual success.
Recently my colleague Drew Dyck showed me a book he found, The Upside of Down. In it Megan McArdle writes about an experiment that showed the surprising benefits of failure. Peter Skillman, then head of "user experience" for Palm, the company that basically invented the handheld computer, conducted the experiment. He gathered small groups of different people—engineers, lawyers, business school students, even kindergarteners—and gave each group 20 pieces of uncooked spaghetti, a meter of tape, and ...1