Thursday, August 15, 2013

First Drafts and Baby Feeding: An Unexpected Correlation

by Katy White

Due to a slight obsession with cleanliness (not necessarily order), I have a one-year old who gets her face and hands wiped between far too many bites.  I know, I know.  All you seasoned moms are probably laughing at me or rolling your eyes.  And I get it.  But I justify my actions because, well, I hate having to do huge cleanup when I can do a bunch of little cleanups along the way (this is the same reason I use daily shower spray).  I also justify my constant child-cleaning by referring you all to my child's enormous amount of hair.

Baby Girl at seven months  

Seriously, children shouldn't have this much hair until they can realize that avocado-hands should not be run through such luxurious locks.  But I digress.

Sort of.

I love editing.  I love grammar.  I love seeing the flow of sentences and paragraphs shape themselves into a cohesive whole.  I love thinking of the perfect word, the most poignant phrasing to convey a thought, to evoke a response. I love this all so much, I tend to allow my inner editor to run rampant on a first draft before there even is a first draft.  You seasoned drafters are probably laughing at me or rolling your eyes.  And I get it.  But I justify my actions because, well, I like doing it so darn much.  I also justify myself by saying that this tendency served me quite well in high school and college.

The only problem is, I feel like my first draft, like Baby Girl, is getting the short end of the stick.  Poor Baby Girl is missing out on the opportunity to experience meal times like a, well, baby.  She's missing out on figuring out how to use a spoon herself, on figuring out what it feels like when you accidentally miss your mouth and smear your food on your cheek.  Or nose.  And I'm missing out on being surprised by how quickly she learns and seeing how much she enjoys the feel of food squelching through her chubby little fingers.  Who wants to miss out on that?

Similarly, my first draft is missing out on the opportunity to be a first draft.  It's missing out on figuring out what it wants to be when it grows up because I'm trying to force perfection out of characters and scenes and pages that would (and should) otherwise get the axe.  And I'm missing out.  I'm missing out on the experience of just letting thoughts fall out of my head to land on the page where they may.  Heck, I'm missing out on getting to my second draft because I'm spending so much time on the daggum first draft that I can hardly see the story for the page.

But not anymore.  I'm committing right now to letting my baby be a baby, darn it, and to letting my first draft be a work of utter, total rubbish.  My baby deserves to grow up knowing how much fun it can be to make a mess.  And my first draft deserves to have fun being a mess so it can finally (hopefully) grow up.

What about you?  Have you evolved as a mom?  As a writer?  Any surprising correlations?


  1. Ahh! She is so cute! I am a perfectionist and I know it, so I know that I just have to get the words down and not nit-pick them or else I will NEVER get anything finished. Especially when I know there are big, sweeping changes that must be made- that kind of stuff can intimidate me into total inaction, so I just ignore my inner editor and push forward. There is a time and a season for all things- the time for editing will come later. :-)

    1. I hear you, Kasey! This is such a tough lesson for me to learn. I'm trying really, really hard to do this on my current WIP, and the times I do it are the times the ideas come most quickly. Here's to progress!

  2. Heh, I kept two whole chapters in my finished novel all the way until I submitted it to agents because I had spent so much time on them and they were so lovely. Sigh. Then I realized they were useless and slow (but still pretty), so they got axed. So I hear you!

    In other news, I think you and I will make great contrasting Thursday writers, since I am absolutely horrible and keeping things clean! (And I'm slightly obsessed with organization, though you would never be able to tell this by looking at my house.)

    1. You're so right, Jeanna. It's too easy to get attached to what you right, to the point that you can't always see objectively. Or at least that's the case for me.

      I can't wait to see your column next week!

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  4. I actually am a word-vomit drafter. Just get it all out on the page, then come back and start the clean up. And it's always bad.

    Surprisingly, this is not how I clean or parent. But it is how I write.

    1. And just another reason you're a good friend to have, girl. I need some pushing here, obviously. :)

  5. I tend to over-edit too. To the point where I get stuck going forward. In fact, I'm stuck right now on a project b/c I like the first part so much, I keep looking at it! LOL. We writers can be goofy. I think writing and parenting is a lot alike b/c it's all creative. Especially with that first child. We're just winging it!



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