I intend and very much hope to be a great writer–someone who writes compelling fiction with interesting characters and situations. But this post is about daring to be good enough for a first draft.
Years ago, I read an inspiring book called, Dare To Be A Great Writer, by Leonard Bishop. It gave 329 ways a writer could become a great writer. Being a perfectionist who likes to get things right the first time, I tried to apply them all as I was writing my initial draft–and promptly lost all ability for creative thought. That was especially hard then, as I was hanging on to writing as one thing I have always and still did well, and suddenly, I couldn’t do it at all.
You would think I would learn my lesson, but I’m an impatient one–and then there’s the whole perfection the first time nonsense I have to constantly deal with. So I succumb. I read another book. It has great ideas. And those ideas either send me all the way back to page 1, or stifle my creativity completely for days or even weeks. Call it my own bit of self-sabotage. The motive is good–I want to learn and improve my skill–but the end result is a negative one for me.
Luckily, I’m aware enough to recognize my problem and try to find a solution. And my solution for first drafts is this:
Strive to be good enough. Set the tone, the look and feel, and get the basic plot, conversations, and various other elements down. But don’t worry about it being perfect.
It is more fulfilling to write three pages of 80% there text, than to write less than one at 95%. And I say 95%, because inevitably changes will need to be made once the story is completely written.
So that’s my plan. How I’m training myself to live the motto is happening on multiple levels:
- One is this blog. I believe I’ve mentioned before that I write this as a stream of consciousness from start to finish, and then allow myself a read-through and one set of edits before I publish. And that’s it. The blog is about immediacy and being okay if there’s an error here and there. Do I want it to be perfect? You betcha. But that would defeat my purpose.
- Another area is in my writing itself. I used to think it was akin to a sin to let a single paragraph go until it was as perfect as I could make it. But a number of years doing business writing in a collaborative environment teaches you that not a single one of your words are etched in gold.
- The third area is just me, giving myself permission to be good, and not worry about great. Great will come, if it’s meant to. But I’ll never know what could be if I don’t finish my book.
So there you have it. My daily struggle to write words on the screen, and then let them ride. I would be curious to know if anyone else has faced something like this, and what worked for them.
Anyway, until next time…happy writing.