2 Things to Remember When You Review Your First Draft
Garbage. Ultimate fail. Complete and utter sh*t.
If you’re a true writer, you’ve probably thought this or similar after reading your own work—especially a first draft. You feel embarrassed, ashamed, maybe even worthless. If someone else reads it–oh man–they’d hate it! If this is the kind of work you produce, maybe it’s time you let go of the dream…right?
We can be so hard on ourselves, especially as novices. But, it’s important to keep in mind that most “trash” can be recycled into something new and better—with a little creativity.
I don’t usually write poetry, but I had been wanting to write some poetry for weeks. I couldn’t muster the focus to do it but kept my poetry journal near–with no luck or inspiration.
My son–my first–was almost two weeks that week. And, while I was nursing him, I felt this overwhelming love that I just couldn’t express with just “I love you, MamaMan”. So, I picked up my phone, made a note, and typed out multiple poems about him and my dog (who was diagnosed with cancer and in chemotherapy).
It felt good writing again. But, when I reread it, I immediately judged myself and felt like the writing was no good. Like I didn’t use the right words. I’ve never been a good poet; a better prose writer. So, I reached out to my writing community for support and they brought to my attention some important things when it comes to raw writing:
[Writing] that stems from that deep emotional connection is always beautiful.
Now, most of us don’t think of our prose writing as stemming from something overwhelmingly emotional, like typical poetry inspiration. Though, some of us are inspired by emotion and experience. Nevertheless, our excitement, stir, and restlessness to write when the groove strikes, when an idea peeks around the corner, when our memory gets its second wind…that’s an emotional connection to our stories. These stories breathe life into our suppressed imaginations and craft something beautiful, even when they’re still raw and exposed wounds from our minds.
Despite your sharp attack on the page, the wounds will heal into beautiful scars with time, attentiveness, and care in the draft revision process.
Even more importantly…
In writing[,] you can be self-critical. You are criticizing the content, not yourself.
This couldn’t be truer in any situation—especially in anything artistic. It’s so hard to remember that we can’t judge ourselves based on our writing because there is really no true guideline (except our own expectations and bias) for what truly makes good writing. While our writing comes from us, it’s not really us in that way. We have to remember that our failures don’t make us failures but humans who need improvement. And, what’s beautiful about art, especially writing, is that it continually evolves as we learn and experience more.
When we write, we cannot compare ourselves to others, and especially, our own raw work. The stories you pay to read are polished works–which is why it seems so much better than yours. But, who knows, when your draft is polished, it may be worth more than others.
Writing is a continual work in progress.
There’s always a missing character, a misplaced comma, a forgotten event, a cliche personality…you’ll never catch it all. This isn’t Pokemon, unfortunately. We can’t be perfect, but you can try your hardest. And, as you do, remember, when digging through the trash of your fresh work, it doesn’t make you trash, too. It makes you those “dumpster divers” from HGTV who can make the most beautiful things out of the most worthless.
Maybe these tips can help…
How do you get past your rough draft shame and guilt? Why do you think it perpetuates even when we know it’s a process?
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