Several of you asked me to address the universal discomfort of sucky early drafts.
Given the barn floor quality of my early drafts, I consider myself an expert in this area. “Queen of Awful Early Drafts,” that’s what you can inscribe on my crown.
Here’s the thing they probably don’t tell you in MFA school: writing a book that is good enough to be published will always take longer than you want it to. Much longer. As in, it could take years longer.
You haven’t bet the mortgage payment on being published in the next six months. The health of your children or partner doesn’t depend on how many words you wrote today. And no matter how hard you try, your writing will not change the path of Hurricane Irene.
One of the best things I ever did to help my career was to pay a visit to the Cornell University Library. There, in the third sub-basement, and after surrendering my driver’s license and kidneys to the gorgon guarding the door, I went into a hermetically sealed room, and pawed through the papers of E. B. White.
Guess what? He wrote some HORRIBLE pages in the early drafts of Charlotte’s Web. Stanky! He rewrote the opening chapter something like eight times!!!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that my writing talent and skills even come close to those of E. B. White. So if he needed time and space to write suckaously in order to find his path to his clear writing and brilliant storytelling, then I sure as hell have permission to muddle and muck around as much as I need.
You have permission to write sucky.
You do not have permission to submit sucky writing.
You have permission to write as many drafts as required to bust out of suckaiousness and into something that readers will enjoy.
You do not have permission to whine because the process takes longer than you want.
Ready… Make sure you have stored one gallon of water for each person in your house for the next seven days. Plus water for your pets. And realize that if the hurricane does mess up your life this weekend, there’s a chance that you might not be able to flush your toilet for a while. (Hurricanes give writers such good material to work with!!!)
Set… “Be obscure clearly.” E. B. White
Today’s prompt: Write yourself a permission note to write less than Newbery- or Pulitzer quality in early drafts. Be sure to note things like the fact that you are not a demi-god, and that demi-gods are crappy writers anyway, and if it were easy, you wouldn’t be challenged and you’d be trying to do something else, like composing duets for harpsichord and spoon. Heap it on. Shovel hard. Try to fill two pages in fifteen minutes.
Scribble… Scribble… Scribble…
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