Monday, January 19, 2015

On First Drafts of Anything

Today on social media I'm seeing references to "shitty first drafts" and "bad" first drafts, and reading comments about how hard and awful it is to drag oneself to the computer to write these terrible documents. 

I want to offer an alternate view.

Maybe a first draft - of a book, a story, a poem, or a song or a painting or a sketch, or a new dish one is cooking, or the first ride after a month out of the saddle, or the first time one is repairing the grout around the kitchen sink - maybe these first efforts of anything could be seen for what they actually are. Beginnings. Adventures. Opportunities.

The first draft of a book is the one where the writer has the most freedom. The time when the writing can soar and dive and play and experiment. When no one judges it or expects it to be cohesive and polished. It's a time when the writer is on the prow of the boat crashing through waves, feeling the wind on her face, not worrying about the finer points of the thing but simply enjoying that wild ride.

Yesterday I got on Keil Bay for the first time in two weeks. There was target shooting going on nearby and many frightened deer in the woods. The Big Bay was on high alert. The ride consisted of me reassuring him, giving him things to do that helped release the adrenalin (serpentines, figure 8s, shoulder-in, lots of walk-trot transitions), and allowing him to circle back to the barn-side of the arena where the rest of the herd was gathered. Was it the best ride we've ever had? No. Was it a bad ride because we didn't have total harmony? No. What it was: the ride that got us back in the groove after some bad weather and a busy schedule. A ride that proved we can work through some anxiety and end up stretching and relaxing. 

We must give ourselves permission to be imperfect.

That doesn't mean we have to name the first doing of a thing "shitty" or bad. 

Why not give it a more positive spin?

First efforts are proof that we're moving and shifting and trying and working. A first draft is a beautiful thing because it represents movement and intention and belief that what we're doing is worthwhile to do.

What we call a thing has a lot of power. It colors our perspective.

Try reframing that "shitty" or "bad" name to something more powerful. The first draft of a new book could be something magical happening, a place where ideas catch fire and illuminate our creative selves. Try viewing that first ride after time off as time with your horse where you learn something new, where you offer softness and maybe get it back again, something to celebrate, a victory. 

Do it and come back and tell me if anything changes. 


Grey Horse Matters said...

I love this post billie! It shows how perspective can change ones attitude toward things perhaps we thought weren't what we expected or wanted them to be. It's okay to be imperfect and make mistakes as long as we take that first step towards new beginnings and adventures.

Glad you got a ride on the big bay. I'm hoping to start working with some horses soon too. It's been frigid here.

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

"What we call a thing has a lot of power. It colors our perspective."

Yes, yes, yes.

We're often much more critical of ourselves than we fear will be. And maybe our self-criticism beats "others" to the punch - ostensibly less painful?

Hope everyone at November Hill is well :D

billie said...

Thanks, Arlene! Keil and I have a really good daily riding streak going and we lost it during the holidays. But we're back in business now and I'm happy he's feeling so good.:)

I hope you get a warm-up soon. We have not had cold so much as we have a lot of rain. I'm ready for a dry spell.

billie said...

C, I totally agree. And yes, all are well here on November Hill. Sad that Mark Rashid is in town and I'm not riding with him, but there is always next year and hopefully the budget cooperates! :)

jme said...

thanks billie, i needed this :-) i've been feeling a little discouraged about my first draft and the slow progress i'm making with it, and this was just the perspective i needed to remember that i'm writing as an exploration and an adventure, and that it is the joy of unlocking a puzzle that keeps me going, not the promise of perfection.

billie said...

Yay, jme - I am so happy to hear that you are working on the first draft! It's true - writing is exploration and an adventure. Enjoy the journey! And you know you have a reader in me for any stage of the process and the final result. Hope all is well with you.

jme said...

thanks, i appreciate it! i may just ask you to have a look at it when it's not so embarrassing ;-)

billie said...

All writers write first drafts - in my writing groups over the years we read them out loud to each other and no one even thinks twice about it.

It's part of the process. You can't edit what hasn't yet been written! The first draft imo is the wonderful affirmation and belief that you committed to the process and that your story is worth telling.

jme said...

that's a good point! i have been procrastinating about some of the stickier parts of it, but maybe just getting something, um, less than ideal down to edit later would help move the process along...

billie said...

I just type "figure this out later" and roll on. Sometimes if you do that the solution comes to you in the next few pages.