Monday, February 20, 2006

Fish or Cut Bait?

It's just more of the same old stuff. Write well, or just get it done? I fight this battle every single day. Part of me wants to get the first draft done, then fix it up. Another part asks "why not do it right the first time?" They're both hardheaded, obstinate bastards (I wonder where they got that from?) who won't give even a little bit. The end result is poor production and frequent blockages.

"Git 'r done!" Larry the Cable Guy and Anne Lamott agree on this. A weird pair, food for thought, there. Just put the words down, get the thoughts out, and fix the prose quality later. This is a very popular outlook, and I can sure see the advantages. Full-time writers don't have the luxury of sweating the petty stuff. Whether they pet the sweaty stuff is their own business. Can you see that I'm easily distracted tonight?

Anyway, back at the ranch...productivity depends on getting words down, work finished, and editing efficiently. That is one of the biggest points in Lynn Viehl's Way of the Cheetah. Let go of the quest for perfection and settle for "as good as I can do it". That's really tough for me to do. That requires an ability to relax that I don't yet have, and a belief in my ability to stay with it that is shaky at best.

I have spent my whole life working on getting it right the first time. Most of the jobs I have worked have had enormous time pressures that required good work immediately with no "do-overs". Those paths are now virtually hard-wired into my brain. When I approach writing, a craft that I am still learning, I have a very hard time allowing myself to make mistakes, to do things badly and fix them later. When I do that, I begin to doubt my ability to write my way out of a brightly-lit room.

Slogging through the crap is one of the hallmarks of a true professional. Obviously, I am not up to that level yet. I climb up, and I slide back. I bitch and moan about my skinned knees and broken fingernails for a while, then start up again. Most of the time, I make a net gain, but it's not very much. Patience is a virtue, but vices are so much more attractive and so addictive.

Well, I have to work on something tonight. Let me see which one of my scabs I can pick at.


At 5:13 PM, Blogger Jean said...

I fight this, too. My hope is that as I gain more experience, I'll write a better first draft. Until then, if I never get the first draft done, I don't have something to improve. If I don't improve, I'll never learn to do a better first draft. It's one of those darn chicken and egg things.

At 5:16 PM, Blogger Carter said...

I think the biggest thing for me is that if I never finish a first draft, I never have to face just how dreadful it is. My own worst enemy.

At 6:30 PM, Blogger Debra Young said...

Hey Carter! Have not dropped by in a while, and it struck me--I've got to visit Carter! Good post, and I'm having-- and have had--the same struggles with writing the first draft--I want to do it right the first time. But, like Jean, I'm hoping I get better as I get more experienced. When you get in your own way, step aside. d:)

At 7:03 PM, Blogger Carter said...

"You step aside!"

"No, you step aside!"

"I was here first!"

"So what? You're holding up the show!"

"Tough. Wait your turn."

etc., etc., etc., *sigh*

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Mama Rose said...

I compromise with it. I don't go nuts in the first draft getting the prose perfect. But I do edit for story. If I've left out story elements or if something that comes along later needs a setup, I go back and put it in. My goal is to have a solid story when the first draft is done. Line edits, making the words right, they can wait for the second draft. :)

At 12:21 PM, Blogger Mama Rose said...

Umm . . . I forgot to sign my previous post. MamaRose is Linda, in case anyone needs to know that. lol :)


At 2:14 PM, Blogger Debra Young said...

I'm giggling so hard I can't think up an appropriate response! I think I recognize me...D:))

At 2:26 PM, Blogger Carter said...

Linda, Mama Rose is fine. We're all friends, here. So far, anyway. ;-)

I'm still looking for that comfortable compromise. Perfectionism is strong in me. Wait, what's that mechanical breathing sound? Never mind. Anyway, that and a deep-seated and profound insecurity are my biggest problems to overcome.

Debra, all I can say is that I think I need to child-proof my mind.


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