Your draft is made of what?

I have a bone to pick with my writer buddies out there. Something that has been bothering me for some time. Something that makes me cringe whenever I see it. This sort of thing:

“Ugh, my writing is crap. This whole draft is crap. I am a terrible writer.”

It’s become almost a badge of honor to get on Twitter and bemoan your utter uselessness as a wordsmith. To whine about how much rubbish you write. Crap crap crap. That’s all it is. To tell others that their first drafts and probably crap, not because you’ve read them, but because all first drafts are crap.

When did it become the norm for us to be so hard on ourselves?

Maybe this makes me naive. Maybe it means I’m not a “true” writer. But I have never looked at a first draft in its entirety and said, “This is crap.” Because why would I? Why would I pour hours of my time, my sweat and tears, into something, and then proclaim it garbage? Why would I then spent countless MORE hours molding that crap?

I don’t know about you, but I have never looked at a piece of actual crap and said, “Right then, let’s see if we can make this into a beautiful sculpture.” It’s not motivating to me to berate myself.

Now. Are my first drafts ready for publication? Absolutely not. There is plenty of work still to be done. Like an artist who sketches the outline of a painting, or a sculptor who has to start out by molding it into a vague shape before the refining can begin, a writer has to have a starting point for revisions. And it’s going to be rough. Of course. But if the bones aren’t good, if it is, in fact, crap, then no amount of coaxing and molding is going to make it smell any better.

So why can’t we give ourselves a break? I would love to see a writer say, “Finished my first draft, and it’s a really good start!” Then I could start saying, “Finished my first draft. I am officially a genius,” and feel a little less bad about it.

Maybe this is just my incurable optimism. I have been *accused* of being the light side to someone’s dark. And I’m okay with that.

Writing is hard enough. What’s the point in making ourselves feel even worse? And think…would you say to another writer what you’re saying to yourself? How constructive would it be if a CP returned a chapter with notes that just said, “Crap. Rubbish. Idiotic. Seriously?” Find things to love about your drafts, and lovingly fix the things you don’t. What you did is the opposite of crap, whether it makes it into the final product or not. Respect your art. And respect yourself.

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14 Responses to Your draft is made of what?

  1. Kathy Palm says:

    You’re right. *hides in shame* My writing is not crap! It is full of possibilities! I love that you’re the light to my dark.

  2. Becky Wilson says:

    I feel like I inspired a post, which is pretty cool, even if I’m the “dark side.” Since you were distressed enough about this to write a post, I figured you should at least hear the other side and try to understand it, before you judge us so harshly.

    For the record, I love that I can take space and get enough perspective on my drafts to see that just because I love the idea and stories, that doesn’t mean the writing is anywhere near ready. I also love that I can take the explosion of “crap” from my first draft, use my skills, and mold it into what I always wanted and imagined that the story would be.

    Being able to hack away at words that become so easy to love when you lay them down on paper the first time means being ruthless for me. Otherwise, I hang onto way too much for way too long. I have to let go of my love for words and conversations, and see through it to find my love for the story underneath. Honestly, it helps to have a degree of mental separation, so that I can be ruthless. Otherwise, I get weak and want to keep all the pretty words that aren’t doing my story any good.

    It’s less of an announcement of “I’m a miserable writer who has no potential,” which I think is how you are seeing it. Honestly it’s not what I feel like I’m saying at all. You’re just listening with different ears than I am, because we’re different people.

    I don’t feel that I’m miserable or my novel is unsalvageable. I just accept that there comes a point in editing, where it becomes so difficult, you don’t always feel like you have the energy to plow forward….but I do, because I know the crap I wrote that’s dragging me down now can be carved away to what’s beautiful about the story underneath, to reveal my original idea in all it’s glory, to mold my characters into the people they should and will be. That’s what’s beautiful about writing to me.

    I also know, when I post to social media, that people are going to remind me that it’s natural to fight some mental battles in the writing process, and that encourages me to keep going, keep fighting for the end result I want. Every warrior has to take pause at some moment, usually when things get rough, and they decide whether they’ll stay and fight or run. I stay. I fight. I respect my art too much to run or quit early.

    I recognize room for serious growth, and I feel excited and proud of that, like I’m earning my way, like maybe I will be one of the ones who can keep working, keep identifying shortcomings, until I reach a point at which I finally make it, where things really start to click.

    So while you see it as a declaration of hate towards my novel, I always feel it’s much more a declaration of love and determination. I just prefer the eyes wide open approach to my own writing, because I feel like my novels come out better in the end, when I don’t pat myself on the back and say it’s all great. I’m a realistic. I like the truth, especially from myself. Usually, even after 8 edits, it’s still not all great for me, and I want to keep fighting for it, keep my head in the game, instead of just calling it good enough.

    I guess, in the end, I think people should be allowed to interact with their novel in the way they see fit, without judgment. If you want to declare yours brilliant, I’m good with that. I’ll be happy for you. Go ahead and post that to Twitter all you want. I don’t mind, nor will I judge it.

    I’m happy for all writers who are doing what they love, but I should also be able to declare my rough draft “crap” without having to feel judged by someone else’s standards simply for approaching the work differently. We’re all doing this our own way. There’s no one right way, and I think that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s another thing that I love about writing.

    Just my thoughts… Love you to death…. I appreciate your light side.

    • Rena says:

      Thank you for your thoughts, Becky! I didn’t mean to come across as harsh at all, and I promise you that it wasn’t directed at one particular person (although you are my dark side ;)). It really is a trend I’ve been seeing lately, with writers not just calling their own work crap, but saying that everyone else must have crap work too.

      I hesitated to write this blog because I didn’t want to come across as sounding harsh and judgmental at all. I guess I just hate to see people so down on themselves. We’ve had this conversation before, and I have appreciated hearing your reasoning and understanding where you’re coming from.

      What discourages me is when I see young writers, first time writers, unsure writers, floundering because if these fantastic amazing wonderful magical writers are saying their work is crap, why should they even bother? I’ve had those conversations too, and that more than anything inspired me to go ahead with the post.

      The writing community on Twitter is an absolutely beautiful thing, and I have learned so much from getting to know people through it. But as artists tend to get emotional and down on themselves, I want to be there to infuse light where I can. It’s what I chose to do for a living, and it’s something that’s part of me. There is darkness for me as well, but as long as I hold onto the light, hold onto my positive thoughts, I make it through, with a lot of help from my friends. I simply wanted to offer an alternative for those who don’t take joy out of calling their work crap, to give them incentive to continue that they may not otherwise have.

      • Becky Wilson says:

        I can see that, and there’s a lot of good in what you said. You have some great points. I want all writers to have support and encouragement. The only part that really sat wrong with me is expecting all writers to fit one mold or to change to fit your mold. I think everyone should have a right to their process, without judgment, especially from other writers.

        Also, to change the trend that bothers you (or counter it), I think you have to be the one who is willing to stand up for your own process and speak for it, without putting down anyone else’s process. You have to be brave enough (like I feel I am when I say my draft is crap), to stand up and say the opposite, without clarifications or disclaimers, to Tweet: “Hey, I just finished my draft, and this novel is brilliant!” If you want to see more of that online, then you have to be willing to share those feelings without comparing it to others and without feeling bad or self-conscious about how other writers will view you for doing so.

        I don’t discount someone who says they wrote something brilliant on the first round, just because I feel differently about my work. I feel happy for them and glad that they can share about their work in a way that is honest for them. Perhaps those who are negative about other people’s work should simply be ignored or unfollowed. I definitely don’t want to be lumped with them. I might say something harsh about my draft, but I would never be intentionally harsh toward’s other writers. I love the writing community, and I appreciate all the support it gives me. I try to always give that back, but if I’m not going to be true to myself and my process as well, then I’d be doing myself more harm than good by participating.

      • Rena says:

        Maybe you can help me out by letting me know which part of my post indicated that I wanted everyone to fit into my mold? I just want people to be nicer to themselves. Ultimately it is up to them, obviously, how they deal with their writing. Like I said, this is an alternate perspective for those who get so bogged down in the revision process. Clearly that is not you, and I’m glad. I am just about the least judgmental person you will find, and I sincerely apologize if I came across as judging. When these comments come across my Twitter feed, I try to offer encouragement, not to make things worse. If that’s wrong…well, I probably won’t stop because it’s what I do.

        I adore you, Miss Becky. You make me think 🙂

  3. Becky Wilson says:

    For some reasons I couldn’t reply in our first thread. Your blog is tired of me, so I won’t post again after this, but I will answer your question…then I need to get back to my editing.

    You don’t have to apologize. I know you well enough from Twitter to know that you didn’t mean any harm by your post, and I like a good debate. However, you can’t say that it’s not me. You may not be talking to or about me specifically, but you specifically attacked my process, which is inherently personal to me. That makes it about me.

    I think you have great intentions, but here’s just a taste of what went on in my head while I read:

    “I have a bone to pick with my writer buddies out there.” — Bone to Pick: “something that you say when you want to talk to someone about something they have done that has annoyed you.” You started your blog by telling me that my process as a writer has annoyed you, which doesn’t really give me the warm fuzzies.

    “To whine about how much rubbish you write.” –I’m not doing it to whine. I’m doing it to connect my feelings about the writing and editing processes to those of others who might be similar, because that’s how I stop feeling like I’m all alone in the process. I relate to others who have been there or done that, and we support each other. Connecting with other writers and expressing my feelings has done a lot for me as a writer. You may not understand that and see it as whining…but again, it leaves me feeling belittled, not supported.

    “When did it become the norm for us to be so hard on ourselves?” –Why shouldn’t that be the norm? Don’t I have the right to be hard on myself, if it makes me stronger? I know what I’m capable of, probably better than anyone else, and a lot of it comes down to how hard I’m willing to work and fight for it. I’m striving for excellence here, not good enough. I’m not going to be okay with average or so-so. I want to push myself to the edge of my writing limits, hang on by my fingertips, and still somehow pull myself back up. Ask any Olympic athlete if they went easy on themselves…I doubt most of them say yes.

    “Why would I pour hours of my time, my sweat and tears, into something, and then proclaim it garbage?” (Because sometimes you have to plant a forest to get one perfect tree) “Why would I then spent countless MORE hours molding that crap?” (Because I love it, and that’s a large part of what writing is to me…making something beautiful out of chaos). “I have never looked at a piece of actual crap and said, “Right then, let’s see if we can make this into a beautiful sculpture” (It’s too bad. Seeing potential in unexpected places is what makes the world interesting to me) “It’s not motivating to me..”–Okay, so what I’m hearing from all of those quotes combined is that I’m supposed to be like you, think like you, feel like you or there’s something wrong with me or my viewpoint, that my viewpoint is somehow ridiculous or invalid, because who’d want to do any of those things? (Clearly me, though I’ll admit I’m not the norm). I accept that you don’t want to do those things, so can’t you accept that I do?

    “What’s the point in making ourselves feel even worse?” –-But I’m not! Honestly, I usually feel better after I get my feelings out there, accept them, and then get back to work. I shouldn’t have to keep my feelings about my work inside or edit them to make someone else more comfortable.

    “Find things to love about your drafts, and lovingly fix the things you don’t.” –It sounds nice in theory, but why do I have to edit your way? My harshest rounds of editing have produced my best work, and I’m very proud of it.

    “Respect your art. And respect yourself.” — These are the only 2 sentences that really insulted me. Some of the others bothered me, but these cut deepest, as they suggest that I don’t, or that anyone who has a process or mindset more similar to mine doesn’t, which I seriously disagree with.

    If you had written a beautiful post about your light side and how you apply it to your work, and how that makes your writing stronger, I’d be all for it. I think being positive is a great thing, and I’m proud of people who are. We could definitely use more of it in the writing community and the world. It just concerns me that your basis for positivity and support seems to lie in criticism and judgment towards those who work differently than you. Perhaps understanding and acceptance would go further in your overall goal to support writers.

    . . . but we’ll probably have to agree to disagree on this like always. 😉

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts, and I appreciate the reasoning behind it. Just realize that sometimes things look different from the opposite side of the street. I don’t want to change your viewpoint or process towards your own work. I want you to be your own unique writer, with your own unique voice, whether I fully understand you or not. Do you really want to change me?

  4. Sarah says:

    The way I interpreted this was that Rena feels that writers, as a whole, tend to be hard on themselves. Which I would agree with, as — I imagine — a lot of other writers would. 🙂 I know I personally berate myself a lot about my writing and my drafts, though I didn’t see that as her wanting or saying that I should fit into a certain mold. I saw it as, simply, Rena being sweet and kind as always, and wanting me to be gentle with myself. Which I think all people can stand to be in any situation — we’re all so hard on ourselves in so many things.

    You’re welcome to interpret things the way you see them, of course! But I know I can say, personally, that Rena has been nothing but understanding and accepting and has supported me and my writing thoroughly, and to suggest she is anything but is uncalled for.

    • Tana says:

      That is the same way I interpreted the post!=)

      Rena is such a sweetheart, and she is always encouraging and positive! Her worldview is refreshing, and there is nothing wrong with seeing the good in things.

  5. Alphonse Fieldsman says:

    Very well said, Rena. I thought this post was a joy to read, and I appreciate the fact that you just wish people could see the good in themselves. It is a very pure and sweet sentiment, and you seem to be a very sweet person.

    Keep rocking the Light!

    Al

  6. Tana says:

    Ah, Rena! This is such a great post! I love the positive vibes! <3<3<3

  7. We’ve all done it at some point, sadly. I think because writing is so subjective, we immediately reject ourselves before others have a chance to reject what we’ve written. Better to get the rejection pain over quickly like a band-aid coming off. But we shouldn’t do that.

    Great post! 🙂

    • Rena says:

      That is a really good point, Krista! We are our own worst critics, sometimes because it’s easier to expect that rejection and beat others to it than to be hopeful and end up disappointed. I would definitely rather have the high flying hope to keep me going than beating myself up all the time though. 🙂

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