First Drafts and Other Loves

first draft

DRAFT: to make a version of something that will need more work in order to be finished


I came home today to the jarring reality that always follows a relaxing vacation. There was laundry to wash, groceries to purchase, emails to scan, mail to sort, and homework to complete.

I was especially dreading the homework because…well, because it’s called homework and old habits die hard. Pavlov’s dogs salivated when the bell rang; I resist when something is mandatory. It’s science. In this case, the homework involved reviewing five essays from five writers in my memoir class.

Once I got started, I was reminded how much I love reading. I love the power of the written word in all forms. I love books, magazines, and blogs. Heck, I’m a sucker for a text-filled napkin. But there is something extra special about being trusted with early drafts from other writers.

Drafts are where hesitant voices clear their throats. Drafts are where words like perhaps and maybe get crossed out to make room for boldness.

Drafts are where risks are taken. Drafts are where writers dare to say something imperfectly rather than remaining silent. Drafts are where writers find the right term and the courage to use it. Rape. Doubt. Shame. Ambivalence.

Drafts are where writers try to make readers understand and sometimes help themselves do the same.

Drafts are where gems are unearthed so that they can be polished. Drafts are where side notes become the story.

Drafts are where an imperfect word is a placeholder for the perfect one that will come but hasn’t yet.

Drafts are where we let things go not because they don’t matter but because they don’t matter to this story.

Drafts are where the work of writing gets done.


7 thoughts on “First Drafts and Other Loves

  1. I love this. Do you know Anne Lamotte’s phrase “the shitty first draft”? She is so eloquent on the topic of keeping your date with the page and practicing compassion with your work. Her book on writing is Bird by Bird. There’s a certain amount of religion, with which I’m not that comfortable, but she is so eloquent about the struggles through drafts.

    1. Yes, Nathalie – I loved that book.

      I find it’s easier for me to be compassionate with myself when I am exposed to other people’s first drafts. As an outsider, I can see that they are doing important work required to get to something great. It helps me recognize the same thing in my own work and be patient with the process.

  2. Thank you for this, Kristina. It’s all so true but I can never seem to feel it until after the draft is done, and sometimes not ever used! (It still primes the pump though.) I don’t know what your first draft on this looked like, but you’ve captured my gratitude with your generous and beguiling description of the process which has made me fall a bit more in love with my own drafts as the heart and soul of whatever ends up on a final page for others to read. As always, I enjoy your work immensely, and you still inspire me!

    1. Thank you Connie! Keep those drafts coming. Even the ones that don’t get used are worth it. I’ve recently skimmed back through “bad drafts” and found a few pieces that distance and time made me more ready to pick back up.

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