…it’s getting DRAFTY IN HERE!!
Yes, okay, I hate myself just a little bit for that one too. But I thought it was cute. Anywho…
Today I want to talk about the [grueling] process that is drafting. And I don’t mean in a graphic design sense (drawing is not a strength of mine). I mean it more in the sense of: sitting down to write a thing that you’ve been thinking about for a long time and have really wanted to write but haven’t had the time and/or motivation to do so but you’ve finally found the time or at least have now cleaned the entire apartment four times and done your taxes and solved world hunger so I guess now there’s nothing left to do but actually write the thing which you should want to write anyway since it’s your passion and you chose to do this with your life so why are you stalling oh wait Facebook is calling and oh look that rhymed and so I can get into a pointless argument with someone whose face I can’t see instead of forcing terrible first draft dialogue on unwitting characters oh wait they blocked me so I guess I really do have to write now. Darn.
You know. That kind of a sense.
Not Perfect. Just Written.
Facebook memories are a blessing and a curse - we all know this. And this week was no exception. I was so ready to discuss some other topics of absolute brilliance today (come back at a later date to find out if those topics really exist!), but then my FB memories on Wednesday reminded me of a little post that said this:
And then suddenly I was like, “um, rude, FB.” Because let’s be honest about it - this quote is spot on. First drafts are garbage. Actually, no. They’re worse than garbage. They are a dumpster fire that has burnt out and left heaps of trash ash (TM!…although not entirely sure what I’d do with that…) which are being used as cake flour by a coven of gnarly bridge trolls.
Clearly, first drafts and I have a complicated relationship.
The big problem is that in order to create something wonderful, you have to have that gut-wrenchingly awful first draft as your foundation. And it hurts to make that happen. Creating art is baring your soul, and when your soul at the end of a first draft looks like Dorian Gray’s painting after he’s taken a billion drugs and committed murder…well, it can be a little discouraging. And people don’t talk about this enough.
It’s embarrassing and definitely not fun, but the shameful aspect of a terrible first draft can be tempered if we all actually talk about how awful they are or have been or can be. They are a necessary step. There is nothing to feel ashamed about.
Totally Organic, Non-Processed Verbiage
Yeah…not a thing. Let’s talk about the drafting process, shall we?
I know that, so far, I’ve been discussing only first drafts, but the drafting process never really changes much throughout a show’s developmental life. Of course first drafts are harder because you’re staring at a blank paper or screen with nothing but your jumbles of thoughts, notes, outlines, storyboards, etc. as your foundation. But in the end, to write each subsequent draft we have to go back through the same process.
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the process of drafting recently as I’ve sat down to work on some edits of The King’s Legacy for my production this summer. These edits are based off both my own personal thoughts on things in the script that I would like to find a solution for and a conversation with the show’s director. When you’re unhappy with parts of your writing and have lots of potential solutions swirling around in your head - wishing you knew which was going to be the best idea - it’s always fantastic to have a collaborator of some kind to speak with and help point you in a direction. This meeting definitely helped me in that regard.
But did I then run home and start writing with my fresh new ideas and energy???
Ha! Nope. I did immediately make notes of everything we discussed and wrote out a list of things I need to do, but it was more than a week before I actually started writing.
“Well, Michael, that’s just laziness and procrastination.” Actually, it isn’t. Let me lay out my process for you.
*Note: I know I joked in the opening about the procrastination part of it, which is totally real, but there actually is value to not writing immediately. Ideas often need time to percolate and develop.
My Personal Insanity:
Here we go. Even writing out this process makes me anxious!
Have an idea.
Determine whether or not I like the idea.
Imagine how the idea could function in the piece or as a piece itself.
Determine it could work, and actively decide to do nothing about it for a stretch of time.
Continue to think about the idea and its possibilities.
Decide on possibilities that make sense to me.
Decide which of those possibilities excite me.
Jot a few notes down in my phone.
Continue to not write, but think over the ideas in more complexity and detail.
Make the decision that it is time to write the idea.
Make time in my schedule.
Do everything else I’ve been procrastinating on when that day and time arrive.
Get mad at myself for not writing.
Start to hate the idea. Then like it again. Then get excited again.
Schedule another time.
While waiting for that time to arrive, write down more notes and draft an outline, whilst I most certainly should have been doing other things.
At the new scheduled time, be frustrated because I’m excited but also being thrown off by the blank page and am drinking way too much coffee and tea.
Write the most basic and bare amount that I possibly can in the time I allotted myself.
Sigh with relief that I have broken the seal and finally put pen to paper.
Come back at every opportunity in my schedule to let the rest of the first draft pour out of me without editing and without judgement (a skill that must be practiced constantly).
Have a first draft completed that I am proud of and love but hate, so I therefore put it away for anywhere between a day and a week before I even think about it again, let alone look at it to begin the editing process.
Sound exhausting? You betcha!
“What Did I Tell You About That Window?”
So what’s my point? Well, I guess I have a few.
Not only is a first draft not going to be perfect, but it’s going to be pretty rough. And that’s okay. It should be! And we need them. Brilliance does not just fall out onto the page, it must be crafted.
You’re never done drafting, and every draft is a process. I love that we use the term Final Draft to describe our “finished” scripts, because they’re never really finished. It’s just the last draft we created before the show became frozen. Because, let’s remember, scripts don’t just fall out of people into that final form, but are drafted and re-drafted and re-drafted until someone eventually tells us “Stop! I’m going to produce and/or license this version now and you need to be done. Step away from the computer.”
To write takes courage, every time. Some drafts are fun and some are not, but it’s important to remember that we need them to get to the good stuff. So, happy drafting, mes amis!