I can’t find any pronouncement the great man made about the writing process itself, but here’s the link to the Radio Four programme about the Gettysburg Address that I mentioned in last Friday’s advanced class. The passages about Lincoln’s drafting of the speech are particularly interesting and just go to show that even literature created by the greatest minds is always subject to a process of refinement: not only is drafting something once never enough, but making it shorter is almost always a good idea. Even the guy who gave a 13,600-word speech directly before Lincoln delivered his said that the president’s 272 words got to the nub of the occasion far more effectively.
Reading up on the speech, I also discovered that Lincoln more or less lifted the phrase ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ from another writer, albeit changing the words somewhat to give greater poetic resonance. This put me in mind of T.S. Eliot’s remark that ‘good writers borrow, great writers steal’ . . . not that I’m recommending this of course.