Getting to the final draft of any project--whether it is a book, a poem, a resume, or even a monthly newsletter (ha!)--can be a frustrating and maddening process.
It’s no wonder why people avoid writing as much as possible. And it’s why resources like ChatGPT have exploded. People want proficiency from the get go. They expect their thoughts to flow like a stream coursing peacefully over smooth river stones, pushed along by the power of inspiration from the heavens.
[This would be nice, BUUUUT it’s just not realistic.]
Anything less than perfect is not worth struggling through. Right?
I see this with my students as well--some almost feel paralyzed at the sight of a blank page. “I have to put pen to paper and do what?” they ask with a helpless look in their eyes, losing all trust in their abilities.
Sure, we can opt to wait for inspiration.
[Okay, inspiration….any day now]
But what if it doesn’t come? It can be elusive and distant. And when it doesn’t hit us, that’s a scary moment, for sure. The blank page. The insidious cursor floating on the document, mocking you with each beat.
Henri Matisse once said, “Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while working." And he’s right. We just need to start, embracing the messiness, and take it from there. Every finish needs a starting point.
One way I get them past this hurdle is to follow Matisse’s advice: just write whatever comes to mind about that subject. Some call it freewriting. I set a timer for three or five minutes, and we “sprint” on paper. Grammar, spelling, punctuation--none of that matters (gasp!...I know). We just want to unlock the ideas and get as many of them on paper as possible.
We see the masterful works by the creatives we admire, and wonder how we can ever be as good as them. But the truth is, they also struggle with this process. All creatives do. We just see the final, polished draft, yet they, too, experience a messy process to get there. Unbeknownst to us mortals, they also have to sift through the “junk” of their initial ideas--the good and the bad--and find what’s worth keeping and developing.
We can’t edit a blank page. We just need to let the trash flow, give it time to air out, and then go through rounds of revisions and edits. We have to dispose of what’s not working, and hone in on what is working: that’s how we’ll discover the gem within.
So embrace the messiness of the first draft: the key to getting to that polished piece.
Now, excuse me as I roll up my sleeves, get back to my garbage drafts, and crank out some long-overdue revisions to create something worth treasuring.
Every once in a while, my phone chooses violence and reminds me of a “memory”--in the form of an old photo--from long ago. Rather than share current pet pictures, this is a throwback to our sweet border collie, Ross. He was five when we adopted him, and he was a wonderful dog. This is us at the Bodie State Historic Park (a real life ghost town). At the time this picture was taken, I was expecting our first son, but Ross was our first fur baby, and a wonderful companion and running buddy. He lived 16.5 years, and we miss him so much. I’m thankful for the wonderful years we had together.
Current Read: Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson
One of my friends gave me Black Cake, and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I hadn’t heard of this book before. It is a beautifully written story about betrayal and the secrets that tie us together. The novel spans multiple generations, starting with two estranged siblings coming together to learn about their deceased mother’s past. It switches POV, which threw me off at first. However, once you get into it, the various perspectives flow and play off each other seamlessly, revealing the rich depth of Wilkerson’s cast. Though I have been chipping away at it slowly due to my schedule, I find myself haunted by their relationships and conflicts, and I look forward to reading more as I progress through each chapter.
The only writing I’ve been able to do is commenting on student essays (yikes, but also lol). With finals and so many other obligations, this past month was a DOOZY. I really hope to get back on the horse in the next few months and re-work a synopsis for a graphic memoir I started working on this past summer. Keep your fingers crossed for me!
Our lime tree is popping off, so much so that we can’t keep up. So I’ve been giving away limes (and blood oranges) to neighbors who want them. I hate to see great fruit rotting on the ground; I’d prefer sharing the wealth than letting these fruits go to waste.
That's it for January. Stay tuned for some updates next month! :)
Some updates, musings, and sharing of inspirations.