Monday Moments: Finish that First Draft and Make your Internal Editor’s Skin Crawl.
This is a new series I am starting for writers and creatives. Every Monday I’ll be sharing things from my own writing journey on the path to publication that have made life a little easier or inspired me. Share your own wisdom in the comments and we all get to enjoy the magic.
Let’s talk about those sometimes-dreaded things called… monsters under the bed. Nah! Joking. Today we are talking about first drafts. So, nearly the same thing for a lot of us creatives.
Some people find first drafts to be magical things where they are free to romp among the wildflowers and finger paint with words. The rest of us mere mortals require a few permissions or invitations before we let go and create.
So, how do we protect the creative bubble so that first draft will get DONE? How do we move on from rewriting that first chapter for the millionth time or editing the crap out of that poor little first sentence? In short, how do we make this fun and dismiss our internal editors?
Well, gather up that snotty little Internal Editor, strap it to a chair and shine a spotlight in its face. I have some things to tell it!
1/ Write because you ENJOY it. Remember, first and foremost, this is supposed to be fun. For the love of everything beautiful, if you loathe sitting down at the computer to write, please stop now. If you’re not enjoying it (at least some of the time) then I can think of far better (and quicker) ways to torture yourself. Many of them will make you a heck of a lot more money too, so have at that and leave writing alone if you really find it a drag. You can give yourself permission to stop and reassess. Do you even WANT to write? It’s okay if the answer is no. Really.
What if the answer is yes and you suspect that if your Internal Editor would shut up for five minutes you might enjoy writing?
Well, do you remember being a kid? Think of a game you played, an activity that you loved. Did you love it because you had to? I’m guessing not. You loved it because. Just because.
I loved playing ‘Red rover, red rover I call over….’ Remember that game? I wasn’t very good at it but the thrill of trying to get past the kid tagging everyone always made me squeal.
Ask your younger self what they liked doing. Ask them why. Listen.
Try sitting down at your computer with the same mindset. Let go. Laugh. Internal Editors are known to melt at the sound of laughter.
2/ Dismiss your INTERNAL EDITOR. Politely (or not) thank it for the suggestion that you suck and then tell it you will be continuing anyway and are not at this time seeking anymore feedback. Tell it that you will be making lots of mistakes. Tell it that you will not be correcting ANY of them (that will make it shriek!) It’s a draft! Who cares how messy it is? Don’t actually let your editor answer that question. It will have some snarky response. Tell your Internal Editor that there are no ‘First-Draft-Police.’ It won’t believe you. Say it anyway. Now, have that editor pack its bags and go away. At least make it sit outside. And don’t, for the love of chihuahuas, let it come back in. Not even if it says it needs to use the toilet. It doesn’t. It simply wants to wreak havoc on your fun.
3/ Write for YOURSELF. If you are thinking when you sit down that you want to write for publication or write to change the world or some other wonderful goal you may become completely overwhelmed with the scale of what you are trying to do. Instead, write because you love it. Write because you HAVE to. Because it’s a part of who you are and you are honouring yourself by being yourself and doing what you love. Again, F.U.N. (A really great three letter word.)
4/ Consider WHEN you are ready to show your work to others. Please don’t show that first chapter to someone before you have finished the whole draft. One word of negativity and you might be in a hole for weeks. The golden rule here is FINISH. Oh, and have fun! Finish and fun. They go hand in hand. Allow yourself time to play with your words and make something you love before seeking feedback. I didn’t let anyone (other than my counsellor) read my work for years when I first started.
5/ Consider WHO you show your work to. Friends that love you and will love anything you do are often a great place to start. If you have a really supportive family member, start there. Give it to Nanna (provided Nanna adores you) and sun-bathe in her totally outrageous praise. Go for it! Let those words shine all over you.
6/ But don’t professional writers have these beautifully plotted, fairy-dusted first drafts complete with unicorns singing hallelujah?
ALL first drafts are a mess. I’m going to repeat that. Listen closely because this is a public service announcement. ALL FIRST DRAFTS ARE A MESS. Even those books that are contracted to a publishing house still need work. Yup. Really really.
Here’s my process.
Me: Oooh, look! Here’s all these little bibs and bobs that go into making my new story.
Internal Editor: But this has to be perfect or the world ends and you explode and also, you suck. Did I mention you suck?
Me: You did mention that, yes. But I’m going to round up all these interesting things, put them in my pockets and take them all home. I will put them on the table, sort them into quirks. Perhaps a pile for happy-making things here and a pile for weeping things over there. And then I will plop them into my book.
Internal Editor: That sounds messy.
Me: Very perceptive. Also, I’ m not seeking your advice right now. I know you’re scared we can’t do this writing thing, but I simply want to have fun. So, Internal Editor, if you could go off and hang out with, oh, I don’t know, Satan, for a while then I can enjoy this gig.
Now I get to give all those interesting things I’ve collected to my characters and watch to see what happens. Whatever will they do?
This is storytelling, my friends. It’s supposed to be fun. First drafts are like a visit to the junk store or a trip to Aldi. You’ll ooh and ahhh and come back with things you didn’t even know you wanted. Some you’ll need. Many you won’t. You’ll add this and that to your story. Things fall out of the book. Other things fall in. And anything, any THING, is possible.
Even if you decide you like to work from a plan for your first draft, (and I admire you planners out there, you mystical creatures, you!), there will still be many surprises for you as you write. First drafts are for letting go, shovelling sand, yada, yada. You can make those sand piles into sand castles later.
What about you? Any tricks for finishing your first draft? Any great conversations with your Internal Editor that the rest of us should know about?