This post is approximately 700 words.
On December 10, 2015, overwhelmed and underwater in life, I sat at the keyboard to begin writing the first book in The Lost Royals series. It had been years since I’d seriously written, but I recall how quickly the inspiration blossomed again.
Two days ago, the second anniversary passed by, unremarked. When I realized this today, I knew I needed to refocus myself. Of late, my head has been so far up my own rear end with responsibilities and disappointment and anger and frustration and regret, that I’d taken my eye off the ball. Off the work. Instead taking the opportunity to reflect on how far I’d come – as I’d done last year – I simply forgot about the date.
But at least I did some writing.
My intellectual side knew it wasn’t a big deal, but my emotional side gave me a good chastening. When my brain quieted down, I understood that it wasn’t the missed date that bothered me. I was unhappy because I’d lost my rhythm, and I hadn’t really been aware of it.
I’d unwittingly contradicted the advice I’d read from dozens of authors. To paraphrase: Take care of your book (and by extension, yourself) every day. Some people mistake this to mean that you need to write every day, but that isn’t the case. There are days where you just can’t. You literally can’t look at the manuscript for another second. But you still need to be productive. You still need to be working on the project. Fortunately, I was able to kick my touchus into gear again.
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I thought I’d write a bit about the differences between the first year and the second, which can serve as proxies for the first and second drafts.
The first year passed in a whirlwind of creativity, quicksilver fingers moving in a flurry across the keys. Every day saw new discoveries. I met new characters and visited new places. In hindsight, I feel like instinct drove me, rather than conscious thought. All I needed to do was hold on, while trying to keep my fingers moving at the speed of my brain. It felt a lot more like play than work.
In contrast, year two produced a different kind of creativity, one that required a more thoughtful approach. I felt my intelligence tasked, in both good and bad ways. I often felt drained as I tried to connect completely unrelated dots (Writer’s Note: It’s your book. You can do whatever you want!). It was inspiring, yes, but I had to be clever and logical in ways I hadn’t in the first draft. In some ways, I felt like I’d created complicated algebra problems, and now they needed to be solved; the answers were there, if only I could plug in all the fancy formulae.
In your first draft, you can often put things off for ‘future you’: Eh, I’ll figure that out later. And that’s fine. It’s frequently better to get the ideas down on paper without having to slow yourself down for organization. But in draft two, man, you’re doing some heavy lifting. All the editing, find-and-replacing, and moving stuff all around the book. And I do mean – literally – all around.
And as much as that really, really feels like work – in an activity that you started for fun, right? – this is where your story truly comes to life. I’m not saying anything here that better writers haven’t said before. But unless you’ve gone through that part of the writing process, it’s hard to comprehend how satisfying that work is, and how fun it is in it’s own way. It’s like the fun you have as a kid compared to the fun you have as an adult.
And so, like that day two years ago, I pause, I sit down, and I write one word after another. It just that easy and it’s just that hard.
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© Michael Wallevand, December 2017