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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Agony of the First Draft

If there's one thing I'm learning it's that first drafts don't have a lot of subtlety.

A full day after finishing a draft that seemed to be dancing on the page, I'm finding myself re-reading it and feeling utterly heartbroken. I don't know how it seemed to play out so well in my head, how it seemed to work on the beat sheet and outline, but what I'm reading right now just feels so... guileless and sloppy.

I probably wouldn't feel so bad if I hadn't already sent it off to my writer's group. My newly-minted group of TV writers, all hungry to break into the industry.

Our next meeting is this coming Saturday (last Saturday being our first) with Monday being my first 'due date' for submitted material. Reading my script again since then - with the kind of perspective only given to those who realize it's too late to change things - I can't help but think to myself 'wow, what a great first impression'.


Alright, let's not sit here wallowing in my self-pity. Best to chalk it one up as one of those small personal horrors associated with showing a work in progress.

And that's okay. That part I'm mostly fine with. Mostly.

But I think the root of my frustration with the script - one that becomes clearer as I re-read it - is that I'm starting to feel like I'm losing sight of the story I wanted to tell in the first place. Like I'm starting to forget WHY I was so excited about this concept.

I'm looking at what I wrote and it might as well be in Mandarin or Gaelic. It's just not making sense to me anymore.

That's what's really getting under my skin: I'm losing sight of the forest and the trees. And I'm not sure why.

It's like a mist has rolled in off the lake and I'm walking around in the fog trying to find a contact lens.

In a way, it's worse than having writer's block. Worse than not being able to write at all. It's like I'm having this feeling that every word I write is taking me farther and farther from what I'm actually trying to say and the story I'm wanting to tell.

Does anyone out there ever feel like this? Is it normal?

I'm trying not to be a head case about it, but it's really bugging me.


Peter said...

First drafts are always rough. All part and parcel of turning an idea, with all of its potential intact, into a concrete form.

But it's never as bad as you think it is...

Rich Baldwin said...

Most natural experience in the world. It's perfect in your head, and it'll never be perfect on paper - never, no matter how close you get to what you first envisioned. Part of this is how being creative involves using parts of the brain that have no critical apparatus - it goes into language (which is fallible by nature), and the critical brain touches it for the first time. After the endorphin rush ends, it's downhill . . . until it's looked over by someone else.

My diagnosis: Put it aside, bring it to your group, and wait until they tell you what *they* think before you give it another thought yourself. Let their ideas sink in before you go ahead, and remember that it doesn't suck, no matter how much it's not the thing in your brain. You'll think me later.

Rich Baldwin said...

er, thank me later. 'Thinking' me would be weird . . ..