Whenever anyone tells me that s/he is an aspiring writer, the first thing I tell them is to get rid of the word ‘aspiring’. I tell them to sprint through the first draft of whatever has sprouted from the creative depths of their minds. Often, they tell me that they aren’t able to complete the first draft and a sizeable proportion of these aspiring writers are victims of their own inner critic.
Now, this inner critic is a result of two contradicting drivers. Fear and Aspiration.
“My writing is not good enough.”
“People would laugh at me!”
“I myself would not read what I write!”
“I hate my own writing.”
“I can do better than this. I must do better than this.”
“I shall settle with nothing less than perfect.”
“I shall not stop till I make this the best written piece.”
You would have realised by now, that these two contradicting forces drag your creative self in two opposing directions and as a result, you stay where you are. And you risk staying there forever! If you don’t tell your inner critic to go an a vacation. I say vacation because we would need him back in the editing phases of the draft. But as far as writing the first draft is concerned, he has to observe silence.
Completing the first draft is largely about Momentum. The Creative self hates inertia. She hates stagnation. She is this dynamic being which needs to be on the move. She survives on that. Measure it in terms of word count or chapter count or just the progress of the story, but you can’t stop. You just can’t stop if the reason is this nagging need to perfect the draft till date. The creative self is all about progress, not perfection. As Susan Kaye Quinn candidly puts in, there is nothing called perfect. There is only finished. You can hone your imperfect first draft. But there is little you can do about an unwritten draft.
If you end today at the same point where you ended yesterday, you might or might not satisfy the inner critic, but you shall definitely fail the inner muse. As an aspiring writer who genuinely wants to get rid of that annoying prefix, you cannot afford to fail your muse.
The muse and the critic are like those members of the same family who can’t stand each other. As someone who needs them both, you need to take control and delegate their tasks. Importantly, you need to stop them from interfering with each other.
Let me give an example. I am a new mother and my baby is a perfect example. She is trying to stand with support right now and it is a matter of weeks before she would start walking. When she puts her first steps, all I want from her is to take her next step without losing her balance. What would you call me if I cribbed to you about her wobbly posture, unsteady gait and body language on the day she puts her first steps?
While writing Abhaya’s final draft, I was bitten this perfection bug which made me hover around the beginning chapters for no less than a year and a half! Progress happened when i did these things:
- Convinced myself that I would self edit the whole thing only after a whole draft is done.
- Plotted the story roughly and pursued the smoothest thread that kept my momentum up
- Set a hard deadline for the draft, and for the publishing date.
The rest as they say, is history. But I am glad that I could delegate it between my inner creative self and inner critic well enough to travel through three published novels and a whole draft submitted to the publisher.
What was your story behind sprinting through your first draft? Share in the comments.