First drafts

Now that my book is done, I’ve resumed working on a novel I started while I was waiting on edits. And, I have to say, despite all I’ve learned over the last year, I still have familiar feelings of insecurity as I dig into this new book. I know lots of writers feel this way. I’ve discovered that while doing my “Spotlight on” series featuring writers I really admire. They are hugely successful and they still express self-doubt.

A few quotes:

“I don’t feel confident about anything. Every time you start a book it’s as if you haven’t done it before. You have to start from scratch.” – Maggie O’Farrell (Source)

“[I’m] full of self-doubt and voices saying, ‘No, don’t do this. It’s terrible’… I’m constantly having doubts and moments of depression and then excitement and then back into the slough of despond.” – Jeffrey Eugenides (Source)

“You feel a little bit silly writing your first novel, thinking, What’s the point of this? Even right now I still feel silly, to just sit down and make up a story and think—this is my job—sitting at my computer, making up a story. It just feels sort of foolish sometimes. I can’t let it take hold of me, that every single time I start a novel I think, I can’t do this.” – Liane Moriarty (Source)

Now that I’ve been through the process of completing a publication-worthy novel, I realize how intense and long the process is, so it’s overwhelming to be at the beginning again. I’m trying to be in the moment (something I need to do in writing as well as life) and enjoy the proverbial journey, without focusing too much on the final destination (eventual publication). There is room for error at this point. I can play around and discover. I can delete entire chapters. I can write whatever I want. Right now, it’s all about just getting out the story and the characters. And sorting through all the psychological issues that motivated me to write this new story in the first place. It’s messy. This is why I call first drafts “barf drafts.”

Shoveling Sand[178]
What’s really special about first drafts is that there is nobody to please…yet. Of course, now that I have a publisher and the possibility of publishing more books (fingers crossed), I can’t help but think about the people I will have to please later. But, for now, it’s just about me and the writing. I’m really, really, really trying to hold onto the pure joy of that. I started writing when I was a kid, before I knew anything about the business of it. It was an end in itself then, and I want to write that way now (while loosely holding onto the goal of other ends).

I love this quote from Jeffrey Eugenides on this subject:

“I do like to return to, or try to keep myself in, the original conditions I had when I began writing. That is, not being a professional, not thinking I’m writing a novel anyone is going to read, not realizing I’m being paid for it as part of any kind of commercial industry. Just a young guy, alone in his room, who wants to write something because of the excitement of it. Those are the conditions that I try to pretend exist around me.” (Source)

Yes, yes, yes.

It’s always been my fear to lose the love of writing because it becomes a job, with pressures and expectations. I will do my very best to protect my initial love for the process, with the outcome being a secondary consideration. We will see how that goes.

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