First Drafts, Stormy Seas

Writing the first-draft is like releasing a storm. (Turner’s ‘Snow Storm - Steam-Boat off a Harbour's Mouth’ pic courtesy of Tate Museum).

Writing the first draft is like releasing a storm (Turner’s ‘Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth’ pic courtesy of Tate Museum).

It’s first draft time again. Creatively unnerving. You set out with a plan, end up writing something completely different and eventually give in to the madness of it all and say, it doesn’t need to make sense yet. That’s how you end up with a ratio of thousand of words you’ll never use to the hundred or so you will. But I don’t believe anymore that lost word count is a waste of work. At first draft stage you are writing the subconscious of a world you don’t even know yet, you are writing the disappearing memories of the story’s present, you are writing the race memory of an entity that doesn’t know its future yet, that’s why the material you don’t use is probably as important as the material you do because fiction needs its own psychic origin.

Writing the disappearing memories of the story’s present. (Early draft of Marcel Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past.’ pic courtesy of Jonathan Gottschall Ph.D psychologytoday.com)

Writing the disappearing memories of the story’s present. (Early draft of Marcel Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past.’ pic courtesy of Jonathan Gottschall Ph.D psychologytoday.com)

Writing the first draft can be a treacherous activity, it’s like releasing a storm – to create you dismantle and sometimes that hurts, sometimes the only casualty of a first draft is yourself. The potential to lose the mind is the caveat of many artists. Discovery of the unknown is disturbing as well as fantastic. You’ve got to watch yourself when in first draft mode, hunt hard, bring back the goods but stay intact despite the knowledge that not one person can hold your hand while you’re in there, no agent, editor, friend, publisher, lover, reader. No one. You have to go it alone.

Maybe writers are true explorers? Most of us do it for no glory at all but to experience new horizon everyday albeit a fictitious one. Writing demands faith. Faith in what? That’s the paradox…in nothing, because to believe it you’ve got to understand that there is nothing – what else is fiction otherwise? Write something from nothing. Turn blank pages into gold. No wonder writers go mad.

The question is: Am I up to another first draft? All that belief and faith and abandonment and ecstasy and tearfulness? 8,000 words in and the sea is as wild as ever, the subconscious primal. The fear and excitement, the aloneness. It’s almost too much. So to keep the faith I remind myself of this: Before first draft the world is flat – after first draft the world is round. So even if you decide the world is flat, there’ll always be a hunch that more is out there. That leaves three options:

The boat might sink but it’ll never sail off the edge. (pic courtesy of scienceblogs.com).

The boat might sink but it’ll never sail off the edge. (pic courtesy of scienceblogs.com).

1.) Live ignorant – the world is flat.

2.) Brood on the hunch that all is not what it seems and stay in a half-world of curiosity safe in thinking that the discoveries you might make will be made anyway long after you’re dead, if not before.

3.) Go discover this roundy world, bring back the gold and have faith that the boat may sink but it will never sail off the edge.

Right so, I know which option I’m taking.

2 thoughts on “First Drafts, Stormy Seas

  1. What a great way to express this. A playwriting teacher of mine once told me the first draft should really be called ‘draft zero’ or ‘the discovery draft’. I called the first for the new book the ‘Barf Draft’ and the draft I’m working on now is ‘Draft Drool’. Is there a book in there? I’ll have to let you know later. Keep going!

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