Be nice to your shitty first draft.
In November I wrote a novel.
Well, 50,000 words in a row in a Word document. But I am practicing saying “I wrote a novel” in case that makes it come true, as if saying it will help me make the document into a book you can hold in your hands, or swipe on your e-reader.
It’s not finished. There are many places where I typed “…and then this happens, and then this happens,” because I was rushing to get the story out within the month of November for the #NaNoWriMo challenge.
I finished word number 50,000, saved the document, and didn’t look back for several months. I’m just so afraid that it’s terrible, that I wasted my time, that if I try to get an agent for it or sell it, I will get nowhere.
I know. Classic “artist’s inner critic.” I’m just being honest here.
Now, with the help of my good friend and writer whisperer Jane Gassner, I have been peeking at it. With the encouragement of my writers’ group, I committed to printing it out.
But I ran out of paper in my home office weeks ago. I have been using the paper-buying errand that I never get around to as an excuse for not moving forward with this, but then two things happened as I was cleaning around the house:
First, during weekly routine de-cluttering of the kitchen counter, I amassed a pile of Brady’s schoolwork for the recycling bin (we don’t keep everything) that had only been used on one side. “Why not?” I asked myself. Nobody else is going to see this draft anyway. After I muster up the courage to actually read it and make notes and act on those notes, it will be recycled or live in a box to be saved for the future when a reader pays money in a charity auction to win it because I will be a successful and beloved author. (I should get past that inner critic first.)
I ran out of Brady’s schoolwork, too, so I stopped printing at about page 80. But then while cleaning out my office closet, I found two boxes of resume paper.
There’s an outdated phrase for you! I haven’t sent a resume in years, and even the last time I did, it wasn’t on paper. In the event that I need to send one again, I can always get new paper. These boxes are here, now, and I need them.Here’s the conversation I just had with myself:
Me: But why print a rough draft on such nice paper?
Myself: Because you are too lazy/environmentally conscious to go to the store and buy less nice paper. Besides, it’s your manuscript. Why not give it the respect that you want others to give it someday?
Me: (Grumbling, knowing this act will only take me closer to the time when I have to work on this), okay fine. [Clicks “print”]
So, friends, that’s what I’m using to print my shitty rough draft – second-grade schoolwork, and resume paper. Both are special. Both would go to waste otherwise. It’s been baby steps between November and now, and pretty soon I’ll have to do actual work.