Every writer has her demons. They are those viscid little creatures who snake out from under my chair whenever I’m about to write something new. They wind their way up to my ears and whisper the most foul comments about my ideas, my style, the words I choose. Most of us writers are scared of them. When they show up, we try to pretend they’re not there, avoid looking them in the face, and keep doing what we’re trying to do. But I believe it is crucial for every writer’s craft to get to know one’s demons well. Know where their balls are so you know where to squeeze.
And then squeeze real hard.
One of my most concerning creative sins is that of Perfectionism. As every sin goes, it is laced with pleasure and that pleasure is in the editing. I love editing. I love to take a piece of sketchy writing and toss it around, understand where its heart is, chisel it, deepen it, cut cut CUT it, and then polish, layer after layer after layer. I never grow tired of this.
Problem is, if I want to indulge in the pleasures of the editing process, I need to have written something already. It can be a first something, but it must be a complete something too. A something displaying at least a rudimentary structure, a vague idea of a beginning and an end. Unfortunately, I’m the type of writer who, if left unattended, will stare at the pulsating cursor on her new document’s blank screen for days, scouring her brain for that first perfect word. And then a perfect second word needs to be found, and a perfect verb, a perfect first sentence. It’s suffocating, masturbatory, it cramps me with a stiff sort of fear that makes me hate this task – having to write the first version of anything I write.
People who know better always say – Don’t worry, just jot it all down as it comes! It will have better versions, it doesn’t mean you’re rubbish, it’s a beginning! But The Perfectionist stuck between my collarbones always reacts as if chased by hornets when he hears this. If you cannot write something decent right away, you’re a lousy writer!, he retorts. Anyone can write something exciting if they edit it long enough! Anyone can buy a thesaurus!
This is why I came up with my very own version of a story’s first layout – I call it The RUDE Draft.
What is a Rude Draft? It’s an intense, exhilarating structure-extracting method for the writer too obsessed with being good to actually write. It’s a draft so filled with profanity, lewd verbiage, and insolent metaphors that you know FOR SURE it will not be good. It’s the exact, programmatic opposite of “good”. It’s your first draft with Tourette’s syndrome.
It may sound crazy, but it gets the job done – The Rude Draft never fails to provide me with the material I need to start molding, and it has several additional advantages:
First of all it’s fun to write. It’s irreverent and cocky, it’s not made to please anyone, it’s made to explore far-off territories. It helps me find associations, images and constructs that would otherwise never show up on my screen.
Also, it doesn’t care about no small talk (it’s rude!) but cuts right to the meat and the subtext of what I’m writing. It has no brakes, no limits of politeness, it’s not trying to fit into anything, and because of this The Rude Draft can be quite therapeutic and liberating.
Writing it makes me laugh so hard and sometimes, sometimes, a sentence born on The Rude Draft is just so golden I will secretly leave it in, like an intriguing scar on my Final Draft’s otherwise unblemished face.
So next time you sit at your work and the demons show up, don’t bother being polite to them, ‘cause they are not polite to you. Don’t try to ignore them and hope they’ll go away, look at them well instead, take the time to figure out their weakness and then fight them with the same relentlessness with which they try to take down your resolve and ridicule your efforts. Don’t convince them you are right, just kick them out with everything you have. Be fierce and impetuous, courageous, implacable.
And when everything else fails, just be Rude.