I find myself reading the Day 7 post in the Great Writers Series and thinking â€œOh, I got this.â€
The habit of Day 7 is to start. In creating something, it doesnâ€™t just magically come out all pretty and perfect. The â€œitâ€ youâ€™re creating has to start somewhere, and that â€œsomewhereâ€ is usually just getting the perfect idea in your head messily thrown together on paper or canvas.
Jeff says you have to make it ugly first. (The key here is not that you are intentionally making it ugly, but that you are intentionally making it).
â€œAll creation comes from chaos. All works of art begin as splotches of paint on a canvas.Â Itâ€™s never beautiful at the outset. Before your work can reach its potential, it will first have to be bad.â€ – Jeff Goins, “Great Writers Start Ugly”
The reason Iâ€™m thinking â€œIâ€™ve got thisâ€ is because Iâ€™ve long understood that nothing is ever perfectly the way Iâ€™ve imagined it the first time around. As a technical writing teacher (off and on), Iâ€™ve stressed to my students that you never turn in the first draft of anything. Partly, I stress this because I know many college students have a tendency to throw something together at the last minute for an assignment, and I want students to actually put some effort in. And partly, I stress it because I believe revising is a necessary and integral part of the writing process.
This is why I often handwrite in a notebook (which I carry around with me everywhere I go) before I ever consider something sharable.
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Itâ€™s true of blog posts, particularly personal story ones; often, Iâ€™ll write those down in my notebook and then sometimes weekâ€™s later decide â€œYeah, Iâ€™ll go ahead and post that.â€
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Itâ€™s true of the fanfiction I write as well; all of those stories, first begin in my notebook. Then, if I decide I really do like the idea, Iâ€™ll carry it on until I feel I have something ready to call a fanfic. That doesnâ€™t necessarily mean it gets posted though, because itâ€™s still a little â€œuglyâ€ â€“ like the one Iâ€™ve been working on, off and on, for 2 years now. It may always be ugly.
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â And itâ€™s certainly true of the book Iâ€™ve been writing for over 5 years. Some of it is typed, in 3 different documents on my laptop; and some of it is still hiding in multiple notebooks. Itâ€™s definitely still ugly but itâ€™s started.
And then thereâ€™s the BIG project Iâ€™ve recently started. Itâ€™s in the ugly stage, for sure, too. But Iâ€™m trying to move forward. Something else I know from teaching writing is that youâ€™re not supposed to try to write and re-write at the same time. You divide your efforts and confuse your purpose if youâ€™re trying to create and revise/edit at the same time.
“Write a first draft as though you were thinking aloud, not carving a monument.” Patricia T. O’Connor,Â Words Fail Me
But, even knowing that, itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve always struggled with. So Iâ€™m consciously, intentionally, purposefully trying to leave my big project ugly. I’m letting it grow ugly but evolving. I’m leaving the prettying up for after Iâ€™ve gotten the story out of my head and onto paper. Until after Iâ€™ve created. And I just keep writing.