writing a first draft: the pessimist’s way


If you’re like every other writer I know, you likely have dusty sketchpads or old Word docs full of stories and ideas. Once in a while, you go back to those ideas and say, “I really need to finish this before I die.” In my case, I’m resurrecting a short story for Fiyah Magazine, which has a July submission I’ve had my eye on. The problem, of course, is that my old story was garbage. How will I know when it’s good enough to share?

First of all, it’s never good enough to share.

As I continue to learn, the first draft of anything is trash. It’s supposed to be. The fear of writing a terrible draft, however, is always a good thing. Let that be an excuse to write whatever comes to mind, because only one of two things can happen: you’ll delete that shitty prose, or you’ll keep it. And if that ruins some later part of the book, that’s fine; you’ll probably delete that, too.

Your story’s not brilliant if you never write it.

I’m quite the planner when it comes to my everyday life, but when it comes to writing I’m terribly impatient. My ideas are so great, so genius that I have to take notes on my phone, then go home and crank out whatever I can in an hour or two. That’s when the fun starts, because then I see how stupid my ideas are when typed in front of me. But buried under the bloated words and self-delusion, I have actual things to say about the world, things others are willing to read.

Don’t trust yourself.

The real secret to finishing that draft is this: tell everyone you know you’re writing something. Find those friends that will nag you for your work. Tell people you’re gonna finish your magnum opus on a certain day, then throw a giant party to celebrate. There’s no consequences to not finishing a draft, of course. But if you see people are proud of you, and are supporting you, then remember their hope. Everyone might end up hating the draft, including you–but that’s fine! You’re a pessimist, you saw that coming.