Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sleepless Writing

When I was younger, the idea of insomnia seemed somewhat romantic. Of course, it was, more particularly, the idea of insomnia fueled by a burst of creative passion that just couldn't wait and would keep me up 'til all hours penning wonderful prose.

As I got older, I realized how ridiculous that was.

My mental faculties are, more often than not, equivalent to an overused dishrag when I'm suffering from a lack of sleep, complete with random plots, characters, and words--that were too gristly to do more than chew once and spit out--stuck to it.

Which is unfortunate, considering my internal clock is running about four hours slow right now, leaving me a number of hours to lie in bed staring at the ceiling or contemplating the random night noises of the apartment complex.

...However. If I think about it and attempt to unearth some silver lining (which is not part of my M.O. typically, but I digress), I could spend the hours that I can't sleep writing said bad prose because that would, at least, get the ideas down on paper.

Which is step one in completing a piece of writing, fiction or non.

One of the first "writing rules of thumb" I was introduced to is the concept of the "Shitty First Draft." And, really, they don't get much shittier than writing on 24 hours-awake-fumes at 4 a.m. when even the cats have decided it's time to pass out.

And I know, from experience, that shitty first drafts can be polished into something worth reading. (You'd think after having this experience time and again, the fear of a blank sheet of paper or a blank word processing screen would pester me no more. Unfortunately, it seems to be like jock itch.)

I just need to, as Anne Lamott writes, "trust the process--sort of, more or less," and get the story down, complete with all of the extra characters butting it, the awful word choices, stagnant descriptions, and wooden dialogue.


"Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something -- anything -- down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft -- you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft -- you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it's loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy."

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