The problem was that my revision was not a revision. I was unable to move from that initial vision of my [story]. For all its flaws, I was in love with my first draft and couldn't bring myself to file for divorce.
In Discovering the Writer Within, Ballenger suggests two ways to make it easier to "break up with" our first drafts:
- Write it fast. The longer we toil over it, the more likely we are to fall into its grip. For all its flaws, a fast draft can have a spontaneity and freshness that is missing from a carefully constructed one. And partly because of its obvious weaknesses, it's easier to revise.
- Attack it physically. The first time I attempted the cut-and-paste method of revision, it seemed heretical to take a pair of scissors and chop my carefully composed prose into pieces. I was still hung up on the sanctity of the typed page. But once it was disassembled, I was able to forget how tight I was with the draft - it was gone - and it was much easier to focus on the pieces that showed promise.
But doing what is necessary always pays off - we get a better story in the end. It felt good to discover that I wasn't alone - most writers suffer from first draft separation anxiety. Ballenger describes it perfectly:
Like spurning a lover, there is still some pain involved in letting go. But from the wreckage of the first draft, a new essay emerges that is more satisfying, more whole, and more willing to share its meaning with me and my readers.
Don't be afraid to divorce the first draft. There is an even better one waiting for you!
Do you have trouble divorcing yourself from your first draft, or are you eager to rip into it and make those changes?