Sick Days and First Drafts

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I was sick this week.

No, not with a virus.

Just a cold. I promise.

But it meant that I was out of the office on sick leave. Mostly, I just slept on the couch. And watched Toy Story. And drank way too much water and downed vitamin C’s like candy, because who has time to be sick, anyway?

Thankfully, I seem to be on the tail end of it. For which I’m grateful.

Being sick messed with my writing schedule, both at work and in my personal projects. And lately, my personal projects have been anything but perfect. See, I’m writing the first draft of a story.

And first drafts are hard.

You know why? Because I don’t know what happens in the story. I don’t know who all these characters are. I write ten chapters, then half of it gets deleted because the story took a different turn than I expected and what I wrote doesn’t fit anymore.

Characters do things I don’t expect them to do.

Things pop up in the most unexpected ways.

Settings refuse to let me see them, so I have to feel my way around in the dark and hope for the best.

It’s all very confusing.

You’d think I would be better at first drafts by this time. After all, I’m a writer. A (sort of) professional. I get paid to write stories, and every story begins with a first draft. (Unfortunately.)

So I should have the process licked by this time, right?

Right?

Well, not exactly. Because the reality is, first drafts are hard. They don’t make sense. The characters wander in and out and change as you write them, and the setting never looks quite the way you imagined it would. Some parts are wordy and boring and others happen so fast that you forget to put any emphasis on the important bits.

For goodness sakes.

But, first drafts are not supposed to be beautiful. They aren’t supposed to be put together, or comprehensive, or elegant. They are supposed to exist, inconsistent characters, choppy dialogue, major plot holes and all. So I am embracing this new story in all its messy wonder, exploring this world without worrying about the gorgeous chaos I am causing. The characters can change and the setting will grow, and I will snoop my way through all of it until I have made a lovely, glorious mess of colors and lights and words scattered across the page in a completely incomprehensible muddle.

And when the first draft is finished and the last words are written, I can start completely over and make something understandable out of it.

When I get over this cold, anyway.

What kind of things are you allowing to be messy and beautiful in your own life? Tell me about them in the comments!

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