first drafts

First Drafts

What a great quote. It encapsulates a truth that is both profound and simple. A truth every writer knows well. Anne Lamott (another author whose thoughts on writing are priceless) had this to say of first drafts:

I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts.

That, like it or not, is the rule of first drafts. That’s the rule of writing. It’s work. Any writer (or, more likely, would-be writer) who tells you that their writing sessions are consistently magical, that the words flow and it doesn’t even feel like labor, is full of shit. No one writes like that. No one.

Once in a while, if you’re lucky, you have that kind of writing session. More often, however, you sit down to write and immediately think of several other non-urgent, non-important things that seem irresistibly enticing just then. You wonder how long it’s been since you checked Facebook. What if someone posted a funny new video? You could use a laugh. I mean, you’re about to create–laughter would help that process, right? Maybe you should just check Facebook real quick. Five minutes. Ten, tops. Done with your Facebook tangent–there was no funny video so, clearly, the universe is conspiring against your creative efforts today–you turn back to writing. You type a sentence. Damn. Not even a whole sentence. It’s a fragment. And that would be fine if it were all stylish and profound, but it sucks. You know it sucks. Anyone who reads it will know it sucks. Microsoft Word knows it sucks. That’s why it’s got that annoying little line under the whole thing. Maybe you should give up today. Wait, no. You gave up yesterday. Okay, fine, you think. But nothing I write today is going to be worth anything. It’s just for word-count. I’ll have to redo all of this eventually…

This is writing.

It’s a mental game we play with ourselves, and it feels like losing more often than it feels like winning. At least during the time when you’re getting into the flow of it. Once it takes off, you can enjoy it, but the time it takes to get into that flow–that is hard. And even if you had fun writing (and you should), reading your own stuff often makes it painfully clear that it needs to be rewritten. A lot.

That’s okay. The first draft of everything is shitty. Don’t obsess over it. Just write. Try to have fun doing it, and tell yourself that the second or third draft will begin to approach greatness.

Truth be told, that first draft probably isn’t as bad as it sounds to you.


About Ash Martin
Ash Martin writes dark fantasy and horror, has a thing for classic monster legends, Nordic mythology, coffee, and sarcasm, and is currently working on multiple books.

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