First you draft, then you craft. This is what I am learning as I trudge along my book-writing project. Drafting first. Crafting second.
I am still in the drafting phase. How long will that take? I have no idea. What direction will the book take? I have written a few thousand words but I still have no clue as to where I am going. After months into drafting, I hear whisperings from within…the title of a book, but it’s not the one I am writing. I read through my journals and find that repeatedly, I had written the same title, with the words, “This is the book I was born to write.” I go over my drafts and I realize that I could be writing chapters for two different books.
I am learning too, that all of these are good.
Andy Couturier says, “Trust the mystery. Really trust the mystery…What do I mean by the ‘mystery?’ It’s basically this idea of …I don’t know what’s going to happen with my writing…I don’t know what’s going to happen with the book….Where is this book going? What’s going to happen to it? How can I develop it? What’s the ending going to be?
“Holding those questions in a state of mystery or unknowing, to be ok with not knowing, is actually going to improve a lot of things. It’s gong to improve your experience, which will improve your writing. But it’s also going to directly improve the writing because you will be open to things coming from your subconscious, to things from the outside world.”
Sound advice for anyone working on a first draft. I am new to this, so I am not sure, but I think that drafting could be the easiest part of the book writing process -that is, if you trust the mystery, if you can tolerate being lost and just go where the flow leads you. That flow is the flux of words that pours out once you sit down to write your draft. If you don’t control the words, if you don’t allow your mind to switch to “thinking mode,” if you listen to the words that seem to come tumbling out of your brain, they flow and flow, and you write and write. Before you know it, the time you’ve set for writing for the day is over and you have written more than you thought you were capable of writing. Your head feels loose and light, there is a feeling of contentment inside your heart center, and you breathe a sigh of relief.
More thoughts about first drafts
“Celebrate the joy that comes simply because you are creating. Enjoy that first-draft rush of exuberance. Whenever I first put something into words, it just seems miraculous; it reads so beautifully, and I appear to myself to be utterly talented. All the while I know, deeper down, that this first draft is going to look like exactly that when my excitement settles down and I take a colder look at it. But for the moment I rejoice in the act of creating. I know that soon enough the joy will subside and I’ll be left with loads of work to do. That doesn’t prevent me from celebrating the present moment.” – Vinita Hampton Wright
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft”. – Anne Lamott
“I used to love running in the dark. I couldn’t see how far I had to go; I couldn’t see other people, so I didn’t get all self-conscious and wimpy; I felt free and invisible. This is what we try for in writing a first draft.” – Kent Haruf
“Writing a first draft is like groping one’s way into a dark room, or overhearing a faint conversation, or telling a joke whose punch line you’ve forgotten.” – Ted Solotaroff
“A perfect first draft is like someone sitting down at a piano for the first time and playing a perfect Beethoven sonata.” – Barbara Abercrombie