A draft is a draft

When I create something I struggle to share it with other people unless I think it’s near on perfect. If I’m honest with myself, everything I create needs at least a second opinion (if not a third and a fourth) to give me the advice enough to mould it for a wider audience. A good friend reminded me of something that helps me with this: a draft serves a clear purpose. Whatever it is we are drafting; a memo, a song, a book, an architectural plan; it is not a finished product, and is not meant to be. A draft is a work in progress. We must chip away at its roughness to uncover the beauty which lies beneath. The same can be said of our lives. As a child we are not expected to have everything figured out. Neither should we expect this of ourselves. We are called to learn as we go, tapping into what makes us who we are a little more each day.

I am three chapters deep into editing the twenty-fivemy manuscript. In those three chapters my friend helping me with the editing has already identified two major problems. The first is that I flit between past and present tense which can be jarring for a reader. My intention was to write in the past tense, and for the most part I have used correct verbs. But mistakes occur often enough to pull the reader out of the story. The second problem, is that I use too many words. Overcomplicated sentences often hide what I am trying to say. Both are larger problems than I’d hoped to find, but both are solvable.

Recently I subscribed to Jerry Jenkins writing newsletter. He is a New York Times best-selling author and offers simple, practical advice applicable to experienced writers and aspiring new authors alike. One of his suggestions has stuck in my brain: choose the normal word over the obtuse. There are times when a specific and more complicated word is important for context, but this is rare, and it is easy to write stories that are more complicated to read than they need to be. If a reader has to reread every second sentence to understand it they will quickly become tired of your book and move on to a different one.

I love learning new words. I love learning different ways of using words. But I struggle to break free from the desire to show my prowess as a wordsmith and simply write the story! This is one reason I haven’t finished nearly as many writing projects as I would like. I want my writing to be the best it can be as soon as I put pen to paper. This is an unrealistic expectation. Successful authors talk about the process of rewriting… and rewriting, and rewriting, to squeeze out all the unnecessary pulp and be left with the juicy centre. All writing is useful, but not all of it will be used in the final product.

What I’m working on this week is being kinder to myself. Letting go of perfectionism when writing something new, and letting go of disappointment when editing. Writing is a process. Even the roughest draft has hope, but it is impossible to edit the story that hasn’t been written. When we take chances we open our lives up to the possibility of great things, and this reminds me of a quote often misattributed to Mark twain.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”

If you’re a writer, musician, or any other type of creator, what are you working on at the moment? Let’s encourage each other to keep improving our craft!

Peace.

Cover photo by Janson K. from Pexels.

20 thoughts on “A draft is a draft

  1. AP2 says:

    There’s nothing wrong with wanting your work to be the best that it can be. It’s just that it will never be perfect – because nothing is. At some point we have to make a deal with ourselves and say that done is better than perfect. By the way – you’re an excellent writer. Don’t doubt it. Peace to you brother 🙏

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Hamish says:

      You’ve hit the crux of the matter in my brain. I struggle initially with thoughts of self doubt about writing anything to begin with. Then, once I get it down I struggle to think it’s worth putting time in to make better. Then, when editing I fluctuate between “This is terrible”, and “There’s something really good under here if I can cut through the weeds and find it”, and “Surprisingly, this is actually pretty good”. Neil Gaiman says his best piece of advice to writers is to finish things. Starting is good, but finishing helps us learn even more, about our writing and ourselves.

      Thank you for your kind words, and your honest positivity. You’re doing good, as I am me. We’re on the road to getting where we want to be. Peace to you and yours, too, my friend. 🧡

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Hamish says:

      Thank you. Aptly for this post, I don’t think that paragraph was in the first draft of this post! I hope your January is going as well at as it can. I always appreciate the practical positivity you post on your blog. 😊

      Like

  2. Cheryl, Gulf Coast Poet says:

    Hamish, this is a very realistic and useful post. There may be a writer somewhere whose work emerges perfectly formed like a chick hatching from an egg, but I doubt if there are many of them. I think the first draft should be written mainly to get ideas down. Most of us can benefit from letting the draft rest, then going back to edit it ruthlessly. Then let it rest again…

    My late husband, who had a lot of publications in his short life, used to say that it was harder to cut than to write, but that cutting made his work better. I used to proofread for him, and most of what he wrote was subject to peer review. It is very helpful to have someone read what you have written. They will find things you don’t. Listen, then decide for yourself.

    One final thought about editing…I think there is a temptation to make writing more complex when editing. The opposite is probably the right approach. We should aim for freshness, simplicity, and clarity!

    Have a great week!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hamish says:

      That thought about the temptation to make writing more complex when editing hits me right in the soul. I fall into that trap when writing a draft, and then when editing. I’m getting better at sifting through the complicated words to make what I write say what I mean, but it is a tough process. If I as the writer struggle to understand the writing, how much more difficult will it be for the reader who is not inside my head where the world lives?

      You have so much wisdom to offer, and I am thankful of your willingness to share it here in my little corner of the internet, and on other peoples’ blogs too. Your advice about setting a piece of writing to the side and coming back to it is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received. I find myself constantly remembering it whenever I read a comment from you, or a piece of your own writing.

      Thank you for taking the time to read and be present here. I hope you have a great week, too!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Cheryl, Gulf Coast Poet says:

        Thank you for your kind words, Hamish. Very much appreciated! ❤ You have made an old lady feel like she still has something to contribute. 🙂

        This is an afterthought: As for the exotic vocabulary, I also enjoy unusual words. I think they add interest and can work well if used sparingly with context clues surrounding them. Your readers will appreciate that you have not "dumbed down" your writing too much, and they will have painlessly increased their vocabulary.

        It is exciting that you continue to make good progress on your book! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sundaram Chauhan says:

    “Perfect is the enemy of the good.” Another quote. I’ve pasted this one on my wall. I try to now push the stories and poems out to the world when they feel good enough, not the best. That way they keep flowing and I can work on other ideas. Test them.
    I like Jerry Jenkins. His editing advice is awesome. I once got access to one of his live editing class, and was very impressed. You inspire by your reflections Hamish. 🙏🙏

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hamish says:

      I like that quote. By writing, and editing, and rewriting, and writing some more, and sharing with others we will improve our craft. Another quote from Neil Gaiman (who I seem to quote often at the moment): “Assume that you have a million words inside you that are absolute rubbish and you need to get them out before you get to the good ones. And if you get there early, that’s great.”

      We need to write and share stories to get better! Thank you for your kindness and for your wonderful stories. 🙏🤜🤛

      Liked by 2 people

  4. inspirechief says:

    Hamish, you have hit the nail on the head. Keep it simple and refine your work. Just get it out there. If it’s unseen it might as well be unwritten. Don’t let the fear of criticism stop you. Even the greatest works are criticized by someone.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hamish says:

      Thank you for the kind words. I’ve been putting off editing for the last couple of days because it’s been tough. But once I get started each day I absolutely love it, especially when I just make little changes and boost through a chapter. I’m started to get excited that this novel is well on its way to being ready for publishing this year!

      Liked by 3 people

  5. K. E. CamposReyes 🍁 says:

    But Don’t We All Mr. H.
    Writing is Not supposed to be Perfect, “per say”
    The process Starts with What YOU want or would like to convey.
    The Emotions and Feels that inspire you to go ahead and choose your ink and paper or your PC and begin writing. It’s often said: What we struggle the most its Not to get it perfect or well written, but what to begin or to start with. Cause once the process ignites, the rest flows and It all smoothly fits into place.

    From a writer to writer, We All want our Creative writing, our Art, to reflect and represent Some sort of Masterpiece and most times to get there, We just have to revice it, edit it, ourselves or in your Case with the help of good friends and our own critical minds. But DON’T be too hard on yourself. Or you will have a Kafka moment. He was good at writing, but the daily struggles, impositions/obligations, and self doubt, exasperated his very talent and ended up affecting him.

    The process of writing its sometimes a little complex. AND Just like the rest of stuff in our human life, we tend to complicate things. AND so we all do with our writing.

    I find that There is Not perfect writing. To me This Beautiful Art, it Cannot be Force, and it Cannot be mechanical and full of obtuse words that fill up space. But more like Substantial, with purpose, with aim and full of who we are. Our essence, Our inspiration, Our emotions guiding our Pen✒ Naturally; And Once done; We can always Edit. Revise. Correct. Etc.

    DO NOT BE DISCOURAGE, LIKE EVERYTHING IN LIFE. It all takes Time. AND PLACE emphasis on what Trully inspires you and the very fundamental content of your context. Then, everything else can be resolve.

    IF it helps You, I ONLY write when I am inspired, and DON’T really aim for perfect, But for : 😊 is this what I trully want to express and ‘am I happy with what I just wrote, whether it’s a Poem or a Story.
    And Indeed, editing and correcting etc. All that it’s part of the process; BUT not the most essential part.
    DO your best [Not perfect] But your very BEST to be YOU. That the rest will fall into place, like a puzzle piece. You got what it takes Mr. H. even a little struggle, it is also very much part of the Creative process.

    DON’T doubt, I am sure, what you want to convey, it must be valuable and for your audience, it sure, would be Inspiring and interesting.

    Remember, There are No perfect writers, There Are Amazing Stories and those who write them, are often, faulty and emotional, complex, and contradicting, genius and imaginative, – in other words: Human.
    We draw from our experiences, from our daily struggle, from our emotions and often from the vivid inspiration of everything that surround us.

    I wish you well on your Writing Journey Hamish.

    Love and Much Inspiration.

    Blessings Mr. H.

    🙋‍♀️

    🌹K. CamposReyes✍
    https://lamoradadelcielo9.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hamish says:

      Thank you reading and offering so many wonderful insights. It’s like a post all of its own!

      Brené Brown says, “All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” I think this applies to ourselves as well. If we berate ourselves for not writing enough, or not writing to a standard we’re aiming for we miss the point. By writing we will improve, and by writing what we know from our life experiences and interests we’ll have a good starting point.

      I wrote a post about a year ago called ‘Just keep starting’ which, as you say, can be the hardest part. Building that habit of wanting to write, being excited to write, that’s such a helpful tool. For me this means I write everyday, not only when inspiration strikes. But I can appreciate wanting to be most effective at worrying when that inspiration grabs you. For me this means some stories and poems are just ok, but they are all part of the process of learning to write more effectively.

      Thank you so much for the encouragement. I pray that your writing his well this week, and that inspiration strikes you to encourage writing often! Peace, to you and your loved ones. ♥

      Like

  6. E. L. Jayne says:

    I, too, struggle with thinking I need to create the perfect draft. I also question too much if what I’m writing is actually going to be worth anyone reading. These doubts do help me to become a better writer but they also inhibit my creative process. I’ve been trying to work on getting my thoughts out on paper and being okay if I don’t choose the most perfect word the first time. It’s the outline that matters. Currently, I’m working on writing and publishing a poem every night. It’s challenging for me but I get to get out of my head for these couple hours of inspiration. If you ever want someone to help you review your manuscript, I’d be more than happy to help. I actually love the editing and revision process 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hamish says:

      That’s so impressive! Publishing a poem every night is awesome, and even if you don’t do *every* night, you will have accomplished much writing!

      You and I talk about it often: balance. Finding the happy middle ground where we put the hard work in to make something good enough, but are kind to ourselves when it’s not perfect. Taking care to find the right words, but being ok sometimes if I’ve is ‘good enough’.

      I’m about one sixth of the way through a first edit and am putting together a list of people who would like to be beta readers for me. Would you like to be one? No pressure about how to read it, or what edits to focus on (if any), unless the readers want to. I’m interested in finding out if it’s fun to read. 😊

      Thank you for your words. Keep on keeping on being awesome.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. E. L. Jayne says:

        Balance is highly sought after in my world yet still blinded how to actually come across it, or even to recognize it if I do. I would love to be a beta reader for you! That’s awesome that you’re making your dreams come to life, would be happy to support in any way I can 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

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