For the love of the first draft.

Work marches steadily along. Finished up "New Hooverville," at least for now.

Mixed feelings from that. There's a spontaneity, a magic to any first draft. I don't mean to imply there's some great quality to them -- there usually isn't, and they tend to be messy, clumsy, and riddled with typos. But nevertheless, when I hit that stride, when I get into that "zone" I've mentioned before, and actually get everything in my head that wants out and on the page
out and on the page, there's a satisfaction in it that goes far beyond just the feeling of being finished, or the feeling like you got something temporary into a steadier, more permanent place.

Hard to pin down, and I imagine most writers would probably chock it up to laziness. Not wanting to proofread, not wanting to acknowledge mistakes that have been made. Maybe. I always thought of it more like a live concert -- seeing that band you love play, on that one night where they play the new song that they just wrote, that will be on the next album, and the lead was sick, and the drum set was borrowed, and everything sounded a little more raw, a little more real than it does six months later when that CD drops, and you play the pre-recorded version in the comfort of your own home. It's sloppy, not what the artist would probably want to be remembered for, and far from that artistic perfection that the bulk of us chase. But it's special.

First drafts feel like that to me sometimes, and some of them, especially the ones that I really liked writing the first time around, when it felt like everything was firing right, even though it wasn't....those are hard to get back into. Tear stuff out of, delete stuff, rephrase stuff, rearrange, and make... well, sensible. Good. Or, if you're really lucky, just better. And I've spent entirely too much time on this blog, with my exercises, etc, trying to chase down that perfect first draft, where in one setting I can just go "and... done!" and then present the world with this thing that has been pulled out of my ear like Athena, perfect and beautiful and fully formed. It's a dream, but still I sleep.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

"New Hooverville" held the distinction of being something I was very proud of right away, because it said something, and it was in a voice that made what I was saying palatable. A couple of people, whose opinions I value very highly, spoke well of it early on after my posting it here, and did so often. And that also meant a lot. Getting back into these past few weeks has been unpleasant... every "improvement" felt like the opposite of improvement, like I was losing the voice, the style, the message. And to some degree I probably did. To get back to the music reference, I've never heard a Peel Session that was better than the artist's first album [actually, most Peel Sessions are live-to-tape, which would contradict my earlier statement, but let's stick to the "first time's magic" train of thought for the sake of argument and to keep me from looking like a total jackass]. That first time, you just have "it," and then later, you sacrifice that "it" feeling for technical proficiency, with time, experience, and better polish.

And for writing, there's no underselling the importance of that. Also, making sure you use the right who's or whose. But, since most writers are already drilled with "revision, revision, revision," allow me to be the dissenting voice for just a minute, and say revising to the point that whatever you're working on doesn't have the magic of that first draft, well that's insane, and is going to show just as bad as any typo.

Okay, not just as bad. Idiocy will always be attacked more readily when there's a resource to back it up, and Strunk and White never did a book on keeping the magic in a piece, and there's not an AP resource for maintaining the spirit of your first draft. And there's a good likelihood that what you start with is not going to be what you end up with, so you never want to be so beholden to your first words on the page that you can't get your piece to that better place. But still.

I felt a lot like I was gutting myself trying to revise "New Hooverville." It's not a new feeling, but it is a slightly less common one for me these days. During the process, I felt a little sick, like I was ruining it. Now, with some distance, I think it's in a good place -- it's better than the original, and a little more approachable, a lot cleaner, but I don't believe it's lost anything that made me get so attached in the first place. I mean, I hope.

Anyway, apologies for the rambling sentimentality. Just how I cope with finishing something, no matter how small. I've also made a few fixes to some problem spots in the peep show script -- few post-modern influenced lines of dialogue really needed to go. Still, I'd like to get it down to ten pages or under [it's at ten and a half now], and there's a bit at the end I haven't found the best way to make work. But a few copies are in people's hands already [Adria, Laurenne], so we'll call that a work in progress.

And I should have a little more news about the collaboration with Ander in the next couple of days.

More soon.

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