First drafts and caring less
I read a recent post on Chuck Wendig’s blog, Terrible Minds. Another writer had stated that she suffered from extreme performance anxiety whenever she sat down to write. We are talking full-fledged physical illness here. His advice to her? Care Less.
I have to say that is some of the best advice on writing that I have ever heard. Really.
If you approach the blank page with so much fear and anxiety that you wind up in a fetal position under your desk, sweating and shaking – Care Less.
If you find you cannot bear to write the first word because what if it is not the right word – Care Less.
If you worry and fret over each and every word to the point of physical pain and nausea simply because you are worried about what the reader will think – Care Less.
As many accomplished writers will tell you – all first drafts suck. Simple as that. Just like every child’s first attempt at playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano or violin or trombone will suck. Craftsmanship and skill comes later – after years of practice and in every subsequent revision.
The beauty of the first draft is in its mess. You will write run on sentences, misplace modifiers, dangle participles. Your characters will be flat, your villain stereotypical and your hero a pain in the ass. Your plot will have holes, entire scenes will make you cringe on the first rewrite, and you will know that entire sections will be heading to the compost heap before you have even completed the task of writing them.
That is what revision is for! When writing the first draft of anything, you cannot get so invested in each and every word. It will strangle your muse and bring your project to a grinding halt. You must let your characters and your story arc frolic across the page and see what happens. You must trust yourself enough to close your eyes and pour out every stupid thought in your head. To try to stymie the flow will bring your creative juices to a trickle. And when that happens, you will never finish that first draft and you will hate the process and you will never know if you could ever actually write.
Read Chuck Wendig’s blog post for the straight poop on caring less. You need to care enough to show up and put the words down day after day, but if you find that the thought of writing even a post-it note makes you break out in hives, you have to start caring less… please.