In Praise of Merdiques First Drafts

photo.JPG7Merdiques, or in English, "sh!tty" first drafts are the only way I get anything written at all. My fellow writers who by some manner of sorcery are able to produce polished or, even more incredible, publishable first drafts make me green with envy. Alas, I am not that kind of writer.

I am messy in writing just as I am in life - I paint messy, I parent messy, I pin up my hair messy...

I am one of those writers who, like Anne Lamott, author of the genius book "Bird by Bird" (which if you haven't read you should run out and buy right away) lives in fear of dying in a freak accident and having people discover my sh!tty first drafts. They would marvel over my vague words, pointless scenes, stilted dialogue, and blatant overwriting (see all those adjectives I just used?) and shrug their shoulders. "Wow. I guess she couldn't write after all."

I have tried to be a neater, more organized writer. The problem is that every time I attempt to be even margially coherent in my rough draft I end up swimming around in circles like a one-finned dolphin. I change and edit, then eliminate, then add again. I could never finish a rough draft that way, let alone a publishable draft.

Right now I am finishing up the rough draft to the sequel of My Grape Escape, called My Grape Village. I have produced almost 80,000 words of...well...frankly speaking, mostly crap.

Still, without that crap I would have nothing to mold. My rough drafts are the equivalent of throwing my clay on the potter's wheel.

There is a strange and perverse pleasure to be found in how epically bad my writing is in the first go-round. The sheer mess shines with a sort of transcendent beauty. To me, anyway.

Not so much when I sit down for the first re-write - at those times I feel like I am at the foot of Everest and The End of my book is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay up there at the top. So far up there in the clouds that I can't even see The End. I want to be at the top already. It would be so nice to have my mansucript almost completed instead of requiring life-saving surgery. I do give it major surgery though because, for better of for worse, that is the only way I know how to write. The silver lining is that wading through the blood and guts I invariably make magical connections and dicoveries.

Merdiques first drafts are how I have produced every essay through high school and University, every blog post during the years we lived in France, and every single one of my manuscripts.

I decided around two years ago to stop trying to tidy up my innate messiness and to work with it instead. I gave myself permission to paint messy, coiff my hair messy, and especially write messy.

It is no coincidence that these past two years have been the most creatively prolific years of my life.  For me, messiness = creativity.