Writing drafts and wanting perfection

A few years ago, someone who was not a writer decided he would “enlighten” me on the writing process. (I’ve read his blogs. Trust me. He is a horrible writer.) He loftily explained to me that good writing required “a series of drafts.”

I sat and listened, trying to keep a look of “WELL DUH” off of my face. A glance at a friend sitting nearby made me realize the guy was past ballsy. He was crazy. I mean, does anyone worth reading produce a shining example of prose or poetry in the first sitting? REALLY?

(I’ll wait while you puzzle that one out…)

The answer of course, is “no.”

My problem is not getting a draft. My problem is that I can’t get PAST a draft. It means that draft posts here on my blog never get published because I can’t tweak them into something I consider presentable. (And yet, I publish a lot of crappy writing on this blog. Yeah. I know. I know.)

But “fear of publishing” is real. It slowed my writing process in college and grad. school. And it definitely kept me from completing NaNoWriMo — until this year when I just let fly and WROTE. (Eh. Well, there are over 50,000 words that are loosely related to a novel. And that’s all I’ll say for the moment!)

This practice of constantly holding myself to a dream of perfection is insidious and poisonous.It disrupts my forward motion. It stops me from trying. I don’t even plan, and I’m someone who LIKES to be organized and work from a plan.

Partly it’s because I have a gazoot-full of unfinished projects, hobbies, crafts, tasks and clutter that fill my house and stop me in my tracks…

[gazoot – gah-ZOOT. n. A quantitative adjective, slightly more than a gaggle but less than a parsec.]

It’s much easier to make excuses.

In the interests of honesty and integrity, these are my current excuses. They are not even GOOD ones. But they have held me back from going for broke.

  • I’ll start running again it’s warmer/colder/less humid/I have someone to run with… (Or, its corollary, I’ll go swim instead of run while it’s cold outside. But it’s too cold to go swim today…)
  • I’ll go back to practicing piano when no one is around…
  • I’ll paint the bedroom after I sort everything…
  • I’ll write that book on my (many times) great-grandma when I’ve read more about the times she lived in…

Your list is probably different than mine (um, unless we are writing about the same great-grandma!) but you probably get stymied too. It’s good to know we are human. For unlike the snotty “published author” I mentioned, most of us struggle.

Completing NaNoWriMo helped me see that there is something to this “just do it” concept. (Sorry Nike. I know you don’t write books. You sell footwear. But I digress.) So I’ve started on my next BIG writing assignment. It’s a paper that may never be published, but it’s one I need to struggle through! As a result of my work as a chaplain, I’m writing  on the work of the Holy Spirit and Chaplaincy: Groanings Too Deep For Words.

That rustling you hear is my stack of research, ready to be re-read and studied. Pressing on!

One comment

  1. I am right there with you on wanting perfection. And I too have a bunch of unpublished blog posts because I don’t have the time/energy/desire to edit them properly. NaNoWriMo kicked my butt into gear, and I may just finish this novel I started… starting with the first edit of my November crappy first draft. By the way, I’d love to read your paper when (if?) you finish it. It sounds intriguing.


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