It Takes Crap to Make Beauty

Something I’m trying to teach myself as a writer is that you have to write some shitty first drafts before you can come with anything close to good.

That’s an easy lesson to learn when you’re writing something short like a review or a blog entry or an article. An hour or two of shitty drafts is no big deal. You’ll find a nugget or two of gold from that few hours of work and it’s all worthwhile.

The problem comes when you’re trying to write something longer. Spending 60 hours writing a shitty first draft of a novel is a lot of work. And the prospect of having to throw away 90 percent of that work is unthinkable. But that’s just the way it is. Amazing stories don’t come out of your head fully formed and breathing and wonderful. They take a lot of work.

In the early drafts of Back to the Future the time machine wasn’t a Delorean, it was a refrigerator, and it wasn’t lightning that was going to send Marty back to the future, it was an atomic blast (let’s see Doc Brown model that one!). It sounds stupid and that’s because it is. But the beauty and simplicity of the Delorean and the lightning didn’t come out until the writers had tried a few other things and worked their way into the brilliant idea of a car as a time machine.

Every great work of fiction was birthed in a sea of crappy ideas. Without the crap, no beauty.

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