I had a funny (haha funny AND interesting funny) conflagration of events over the last two weeks that culminated in a miraculous validation message delivered by none other than Ernest Hemingway himself.

autoraFirst, my author friend, who has been working on four distinct “second” books over the last year, had an ADHD-fed breakdown. She is so tired of writing, of making her brain try to come up with meaningful, true, witty things day after day that she has burned out. She keeps getting 4/5 of the way through a book and leaving it behind because “it’s not good enough.”

Mainly, she’s bored with it.

This is what I personally call the “Oooh! Piece of candy!” syndrome and it affects just about all human beings at some point or another. Let me allow Family Guy to demonstrate:


Here’s the moral for this story: it’s easy to continuously be distracted by the little “piece of candy” goals of finishing up a chapter, bumping up the Facebook Likes, honing in your author blog, blah, blah, blah. It’s SO rewarding, all those little things, that you fail to take a break, give yourself some well-deserved (and necessary) rest.

She was bummed out about her (third) rough draft in six months, the one she deemed “terrible” and “in need of a miracle.” I was pretty sure she was wrong about the terribleness and probably just coming down off the “piece of candy” high.

Anyways, I was banging my head against a wall trying to get her to stop playing the sad violin and doing the sad-Hulk-walk-away thing. At some point, to counter her claim that “it’s all crap!” I was like


She laughed but I think she did not believe me. I keep typing in all caps when I chat with her in hopes that it will eventually sink in.

See? (This is a first draft of a famous children's story as imagined by Kate Beaton)
See? (This is a first draft of a famous children’s story as imagined by Kate Beaton from harkavagrant.com)

Then I had the same exchange with my summer class, although I was much gentler with them because they are not professional writers and they don’t pay me to type-yell at them. They were all bemoaning their latest essay grades and I was like “guys… seriously? Do more than one draft.”

And they did NOT like that. “Oh, it’s so much work! I wish I was just a good enough writer that I could write an A+ paper the first time I sat down to write.”

To which I replied, “Never, ever, ever going to happen. Not in your whole life. From now on, consider your first draft to be the worst possible iteration of whatever you create. Your job isn’t to MAKE IT. Your job is to MAKE IT + BETTER.”

They didn’t really believe me, either. I started to feel doubtful about what I was saying. Everyone thinks “good writing” is some THING, a skill that you just happen upon one day. And once you’ve got it, you never lose it and all you ever have to do is sit down for 20-30 and you will spew good things all over the world.

THEN Hubs found this gem, which made me pee my theoretical pants in glee, because it totally validates my advice. Forever.


On Writing: First Drafts Are Shit
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One thought on “On Writing: First Drafts Are Shit

  • September 21, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Maybe not completely shit, but seriously in need of editing for spelling, punctuation,wordiness (A.K.A.logoriah),tangential dead ends,and lack of a good ending. The best thing that can be said is that it is a start.


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