I mentioned in an earlier story how Dorothy Parker said that while she hated writing, she loved having written, and how I was like her in that respect.
I used to approach writing in my younger days by sitting down with a pad of paper and a pencil. When I went to college the first time, the pencil evolved into a typewriter (yes, I really am that old).
Then I would sit there, waiting for inspiration. If it didn’t come, I’d try another day.
Now, years later, I’ve come to realize that writing anything worth reading is a job, a craft, a trade. And like any other job, it demands hard work and dedication.
Sometimes it’s dirty and grubby and the very thought of writing fills me with dread, to the point where there’s nothing I’d rather do than to go back to bed, pull the blankets over my head, and stay there, dreaming dreams of split infinitives, the Oxford comma, and legions of Grammar Nazis running after me with their pens loaded with red ink.
Instead, I merely sit myself down, pour a fresh cup of tea, and open a new file.
The Fear of a Blank Page
Are you like me? Does the sight of a vast white screen scare the bejeezus out of you? Do you think you’re the only writer or wannabe who’s felt this way? Believe me when I tell you that you’re not the only one. It’s how I feel pretty much everytime I see that vast digital desert.
But I don’t let it stop me from typing the first words, any words at all, because I know one simple truth: no matter how bad the first draft is, I know that I can edit it, kneading and shaping it like a loaf of bread, until I’m satisfied with its form.
And you can’t edit a blank page.
Great Writers Are Great Readers
Yada yada yada. (Why does my autocorrect always want to capitalize “yada”? I mean, it’s not as if it’s the name of a Jedi master, right?)
Anyway, getting back to the “Great Writers” issue. Yeah, I read. A LOT. My own library contains over 2500 novels, poems, short stories, and reference books. that is the single reason I even own an eReader: I have no physical space for such a large collection.
But here’s the important point: I never let my reading get in the way of my writing. I don’t allow myself the reward of getting lost in a novel until I’ve written my quota for any given day. Business before pleasure, as the old saying goes.
(This is not to be confused with a similar slogan spoken in brothels and red-light districts the world over: “It’s a business doing pleasure with you.”)
So yeah, I hate the first draft, as much as old carpenters hated digging out the ground before building the foundation. But like them I know that without a foundation, you’ve got nothing to build upon.
Which, ultimately, is what your first draft is: a foundation.
(Note: this is the third and final draft of a story I started writing 5 hours ago. Without that crucial first draft, I’d have nothing on which to build it.)