Why are you trying to attain perfection with your first drafts?
Remember the parable of the wheat and tares?
You can learn a thing or two from it as a writer…
So Mr Bull went with his farmhands to his large farm in the countryside to plant wheat. Much later, his farmhands went to the farm and discovered that tares were shooting out among the wheat.
“What would you have us do, boss?” They asked on their return. “Uproot the tares from among the wheat while it’s still growing?”
“What! Don’t do that!” Was the farmer’s passionate appeal.
“While you are busy uprooting the tares, you are likely to uproot or do damage to some of the wheat in the process.
Just let them grow together till the wheat are ready for harvesting. You can then take out the tares and burn them while you gather the wheat into the barn.”
Moral of the ‘story’?
Trying to attain perfection with your first draft can be counterproductive.
You see, the wheat in the story can be likened to the rich content that constitutes your write-up. Meanwhile, the tares are elements that (seem to) make it redundant or ineffective (grammar, meaning, structural or punctuation errors).
Unless you are an exceptionally good writer, your first draft shouldn’t be ideal.
As you plant wheat in the process of writing, tares will always rear their ugly head. Nowadays, when I write, I just allow the tares to grow with the wheat.
In essence, I have learnt not to revise my writing until I’m done with my first draft.
Ideas are the wheels on which the writer’s creative engine run. Sometimes, they come to you in form of a muse or an inspiration bug and in the least expected places or circumstances too.
So when they come, you begin to write. Meanwhile, as a perfectionist, as you write…
- You try to read along to be sure your expressions are concise and apt.
- You see a word that doesn’t fit a context and change it.
- An expression looks funny and you begin to think of a substitute.
- You wonder if the comma (,) after the ‘and’ is necessary or should be omitted.
- You consider making a passive statement into an active one to make it more effective.
And it goes on…
At the end of the day,
- You spend double (or more) the time you ought to have written your work.
- You ruin large chunks of the work and may need to start afresh.
- You overdo the editing till it loses its flourish.
- You put yourself through much mental activity and pressure.
- You begin to doubt the credibility of the work altogether and abandon it.
- You lose the inspiration for the writing and it dies an untimely death.
Truth is there will always be a better way to present your thoughts, a better way to compose them. Sometimes, as you write, the more you see (and need to perfect), the less impressed you get.
And you’ll keep making endless futile efforts to make it better.
Let the tares grow with the wheat in the meantime.
Allow your words flow through your hands without casting a second glance at them until you are done.
When you have gotten out all the ideas and the draft is done, allow it to sit for a while before revision.
Then patiently and carefully uproot the ‘tares’.
You’ll be surprised what a healthy and bountiful harvest you’ll have!
How/when do you edit your write-ups? While at it or after you’ve finished writing?
What works best for you? Do share with us in the comment section.