Supposedly, everyone hates their first drafts. Hate seems too gentle a word for the aversion I feel towards a draft going badly. Also, I’ve never been one to settle for just one overwrought emotional reaction. Self hate is a great start. Now add on shame. Despair! Downward Spiraling! Frustration! Complete collapse of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs!
My writing has to be “good” before I attach to it. Good is arbitrary to my mood, and an ever-changing standard. For me it’s deft turns of phrase, and fresh ways of saying the same old things, and surprising verbs choices and houses of cards standing against hurricanes.
It’s rare for those things to appear in first drafts. They’re all second or ninth draft rewards for working the craft. But, to get to the second or ninth drafts, and the rewards that may or may not come, I’ve got to plod through that gawd-awful first draft. Hating, despairing and collapsing internally through every line of clichéd description and boring word choice and turgid pacing.
Turgid is the grossest, right. Like moist and palpitating levels of gross.
So far, my work plan is merely slogging. Do the awful draft. Earn my way to the “fun and rewarding” drafts in which mucked up prose gets make-overs from the craft fairy godmother and plot points get honed into shivs . But, perhaps an important part of my journey away from self-hate and despair and hierarchies of unfulfilled needs is realizing I deserve more in my creative life than slogging through first drafts.
No one likes their first drafts, so I am not expecting a love affair to bloom. Disliking the first draft is okay, in itself. Otherwise there’d be no second draft, and we’ve all had to workshop other people’s first drafts. I need to figure out how to leave the dislike at that. The draft. The draft reflects only the draft. Not my skill, not my worthiness as a writer. I just want to figure out how to like myself and trust my creative chops during the first draft.