No matter how many professors, seasoned authors, and other assorted writing sages tell me that published works are actually the product of a dozen agonizing rewrites, I never lose the hope that the first draft I toss onto the computer screen will be pure golden perfection. And then I’m very frustrated when it isn’t. (But, maybe, next time…)
There are times when I look at a chapter, or an essay, or a scene and think, ‘God, this is awful, how will I ever make this good?’ And a big barrier comes crashing down, constructed by the forces of Suckitude who conspire to keep me from finishing anything. How can I move forward when the terrible prose haunts me, weighing me down like some grubby little kid clinging to the hem of my shirt?
I mention this because it happened in the midst of writing an essay about my trip up and down Mount Masada, though in this case I knew when I wrote it that the first draft would be garbage. I had a lot of whining and bitching to get off my chest, and wouldn’t be able to actually get to the story until I’d done that.
My thesis advisor always emphasizes that in creative non-fiction, you don’t want to make yourself the hero or the victim of the piece. In this situation, I definitely felt like a victim, so I struggled with trying to interject a little sanity in hindsight, while still conveying how horrible I felt at the time. I knew that on the first draft, it would lean heavily towards the ‘Oh Woe is Me’ side of the scale. (In addition to being a writer, I have a theater background, so I can be melodramatic.)
At the moment, I’m struggling to express that while I know I was overreacting to the situation, it felt real to me, and I was angry (am still angry?) that I couldn’t express how difficult it was for me without sounding whiny – mostly because it was so much easier for everyone else.
I’ll get there eventually.