Monday, January 11, 2010

First Drafts and Death Sprials

I don't like showing first drafts to people. As Anne Lamott says, first drafts are by definition shitty. But even more than that I am almost always unable to bear showing an unfinished first draft to someone. I have to have taken the time to have thought out the whole story or the response will destroy my drive to finish writing the project. This has less to do with the writing being bad (which it always is in a first draft) and more to do with my thought process being both incomplete and interrupted.

Once I'm done thinking things through you can tell my writing is shit. In fact at that point I welcome such a comment. But if you fuck with my thought process. When I'm still sorting things out and reasoning my way through the problem I'm gonna go ape shit.

Or worse: I'm gonna give up.

On Friday I started to death spiral. It was all related to my current project. I started doubting what I'd reasoned so far in terms of the early plot. And then I doubted my storytelling strategy for that section. I started rewriting it. Then I saw the shittiness of the section before and started doubting it. Then I had to walk away. The doubt percolated. And all it took was a few innocuous questions from a well meaning person and I went into full panic mode.

This projects not good enough! I'm not good enough! I'm doomed! Why can't I finish a damn novel!

It took several very morose hours to break myself out of that spiral. I'm doing okay now but the doubt monster is there lurking close to the surface.

I realized that my goal for this weekend needs to be to have fun with this first draft. Part of my problem is that I'm being very serious about the whole thing and that's killing it for me. I'll be serious later when things aren't so nebulous.

I never thought I'd quote Nora Roberts, but I'm gonna quote Nora Roberts:
Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterward.

How do you deal with your first drafts?

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