When I was writing my MBA application essays for US B-Schools, I found myself in a fix.

Throughout school and college, I hadn’t written even one page of half-decent prose. How would I write these highly demanding essays?

Fortunately, Vinod Thomas, my friend and IPS senior, rescued me — he offered to give me feedback on my essays.

Thereafter, I would share with him what I thought were excellent drafts. And like the Indian censor board, his feedback would always be, “Chop this, chop that.”

These words on the chopping block were there for a reason. Yet, every time I cut out words, the essays improved.

That was my first lesson in writing — “To say more, say less.”

Further, I would edit the essays obsessively — most would go through 15-20 iterations, and one even crossed 50!

That is when I discovered the secret sauce of writing — all ‘good writing’ is ‘rewriting.’

After 10-15 iterations, my barely tolerable first draft often became quite readable.

When an MIT essay was not coming out right even after 10 iterations, I rewrote it from scratch. Vinod liked it so much that he asked to keep a copy — that was the high point 🙂

This MBA application turned out to be my best writing course.

And through it, I discovered the secret of excellence, be it in writing or anything else: You don’t have to get it right the first time — nobody does.

Just iterate, iterate, iterate. If you can out-iterate, you can out-compete. Period.

– Rajan


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