An ode to the first draft

Ok, I finished a rough first draft of a short story about ten minutes ago, and nothing felt more apt than writing a speedy blog post about just how much I love this feeling (and just how much I dread the next stage of the process).

As most people know, the first draft of anything creative is pretty rough. Unless of course you’re some kind of genius, in which case you’re not welcome here to discuss the drafting process. The first draft is the place where you try your best to get everything down on the page, with the knowledge that you’re going to spend hours/days/weeks afterwards toying with that page and trying to make it perfect.

The first draft is effectively the bare bones of the story. Think of it as an undecorated cake, or an unpolished turd. While many writers look at the first draft as ‘a bit rubbish’, and of course I feel the same, I also hold a deep love for the excitement and rush of happiness that a first draft causes me to feel.

For me, writing has always been an organic and exciting process. I find it hard to sit down and force myself to write, or to be strict about my writing schedule and timetable. I like to write when I want to, and attempting to put words on a page when I don’t feel like it can be just a bit depressing and demotivating. That’s why, when I catch a hold of the feeling, I am always excited to write. And being able to be free with the first draft, certainly causes that feeling.

Yes, first drafts are a bit rubbish. But they’re also the place where stories begin. There a place without rules and regulations (for me anyway) where I can leave gaps and know that I’ll come back to fill them, where I can get that first sense of what the rhythm of a piece will sound like, and how I want it to end (which often I don’t know until I get there).

First drafts are exciting and magical because what comes next is the technical bit that means scouring through and getting down to the nitty gritty of the exact words and sentence structures. Anything can happen in the first draft. You don’t have to worry about anything concrete. It’s the next draft where you have to tidy it up and work out exactly what you want. Of course there’s a real joy in those parts of the writing as well, but it’s just not the same as the buzz you get from putting a story into its first form.

The first draft is a place of limitless opportunity. The first draft has no boundaries. The first draft is to me the truest expression of creativity.

Now, I’m off to bask in the glow of first draft fever, and no doubt return to my work later today with an entirely different feeling and a few “Why the hell did I write that?”s. The writing process, eh – it will never fail to amaze and surprise me.

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