Tuesday, 1 December 2015

The 'dire' expectation - a step towards liberated writing

This week I am feeling liberated as a writer.  The breakthrough moment came after reading some advice from a writer I have discovered recently, Safia Moore.  She won the Bath Short Story Award and blogs at Top of the Tent.

Hers is a confident voice when it comes to discussing the craft of writing, and I find her thoughts inspiring.  The piece of advice that turned my writing desk upside down was in an interview she gave to The Short Story.   Talking of writing in general, she said:

'Expect the first draft to be pretty dire'.

Perhaps you are raising your eyebrows quizzically at this point.  Or maybe you can identify, like me, with the comfort those words offer.  It can be utterly dispiriting to come back to the first draft of a story, or to yesterday's writing, for which you had such high hopes, only to discover that it is nowhere near as delicious as you had imagined. If you're not careful, your inner critic finds its voice and you let it convince you that you are not, and never will be, a real writer.  That may sound melodramatic, but it happens.  Of course you know that all writers edit their work and go through many drafts, but it is only too easy to believe that your first draft takes all the prizes for lousiness. Other writers, you think, edit to make already good writing, superlative.  You, on the other hand, edit to spare yourself humiliation.

Expecting the first draft to be dire, far from being pessimistic, is a relief and it's freeing me to write. Now my first aim is to get my story onto the page whole, however roughly.  That's the job of the first draft: to capture the story and not let it slip away.  I know it's going to be rough and I embrace this roughness.  This enables me to keep on going with a piece and stops me from looking back and trying to meddle with the raw story as it emerges.  All too often, (very very, very often) I have not completed a piece at all because I've got stuck in that kind of meddling.

The good news is, I think, that after the story has been 'captured' in first draft, you have the time to play with it.  You've got this messy draft in front of you and you can start to cut and polish it and make it sparkle.

It's early days but the acceptance that my first words will be far from brilliant feels like a paradigm shift in writing for me, a way of getting around myself and on with the job.

All of the wonderful photos on this blog are by Andrew Holman

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