Writing is hard. There’s no two ways about it, sometimes you even question why you put yourself through the trauma of doing it. Not only do you have to put words on the page, but you have characters to contest with … and sometimes those characters are the best and the worst. Sometimes they act out, behave like children and sometimes they break our hearts because of the strength and power of their convictions. We laugh with them and we cry with them and somewhere in between we pull our hair out with them.
And if that’s not enough? Then as writers we’re plagued with self-doubt and wondering if we can or should be doing this. Can we do this? Is this ok? Is this even a good piece of writing? And the phrase ‘I hate everything I’ve ever written’ is something that frequently crops up with Charlotte and myself. And those are the times when it gets really tough, where we have to persevere and go … we can do this, we want to do this and it will be worth it in the end.
Lately, we’ve had to look at some home truths when it comes to our writing. Not because it’s bad or horrible or shocking or anything of the sort … but more because we’ve been trying to take control of the story.
And from that, we’ve learned one important lesson:
It doesn’t work.
Our kids, our brain children, our characters want to be in control. They’re the ones that want to drive this thing home. They know what they want to write and when they want to write. And yes, sometimes they want to write at the most inopportune moments (for me it happens to be when I’m in meetings and can’t just stop and put pen to paper) but we have to learn to listen to them.
They misbehave. They make us want to tear our hair out. They break our hearts and make us feel things we don’t want to feel. Especially when those feelings push us to the brink of tears or in cases in actual tears … and we’re left trying to explain to the non-writers in our lives the reason why.
This week, for us has been a bit of an eye opener. We went back and looked at some of our first draft works and realised … it wasn’t that bad and in some cases the plot and writing and development was better than we have now. For the simple reason that we used to let our characters do what they wanted to do … not put them in time out when they decided they wanted to go off and ride a unicorn into the sunset whilst eating a bowl of popcorn … and ok, we don’t have unicorn’s in our world (I’m not even sure we have popcorn now I come to think on it!) but the point’s the same … We’re bad parents to our fictional children.
But we are now striving to be better and do better. And I think now, we will be and do better by the brain children that we have and not neglect them so much and come to this awe shattering conclusion.
So, the lessons we’ve learned? First drafts should never be scrapped … sometimes they are the diamonds in the rough that we’ve been looking for all along.