The Discovery Draft: Permission to make a mess

Permission to suck, John GreenIt’s time for our “first Tuesday” meetings — midday at Sacred Heart Books & Gifts in far north Dallas, evening at the University of Dallas in Irving, November 1 at the usual times. Why not bring a sample of something you’re working on for peer critique? Don’t worry about bringing something that’s already polished — you don’t need to impress us. In fact, you’ll get much more benefit if, instead of bringing a polished draft you bring a discovery draft.

“Get it out of my head!”

What’s a discovery draft, you say? It’s that first crummy draft — the one you really don’t want to show anyone — that get your ideas out onto the page, even if it’s a bit artless at this point. It’s the draft that helps you discover what you really want to say, the one that you feel free to slash mercilessly and rearrange freely until it starts to look like the idea you had in your mind when you first started. Don’t worry if it starts out a mess — there’s a lot of satisfaction to be gained by cleaning up that mess, putting things in order, pruning out whatever is not helping, adding in anything you might need to make things clearer.

Permission to make a mess

I suspect a lot of people who say they suffer from writer’s block are really suffering from premature perfectionism. If you’re one of those people, try giving yourself permission to write a messy first draft — or even two or three — that just let you get the ideas out of your head onto the page. Turn off your internal editor while you write, and let your draft “cool down” overnight before you give it another thought. Then, the next day — or the next week, let your internal editor look it over and decide what can stay and what needs to go. A couple of rounds of drafting and editing will probably help you bring your ideas into focus — and then you can tweak and polish it until it’s “ready for prime time.”

If you need some “fresh eyes” on something you’re working on, you will always find friendly, constructive criticism at meetings of the Dallas/Fort Worth Catholic Writers Group.

Remember that there is also a “third Tuesday” evening meeting at the University of Dallas. Here are the details of time and place. Hope we see you soon!

If you want to make sure you never miss a meeting, contact Nancy Ward  to get on the email list. You can also sign up to receive all blog posts by email. Just fill in the form in the right-hand sidebar.

This post originally appeared on the DFW Catholic Writers Group blog.

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