What they don’t tell you about the Second Draft

I belong to a few Facebook writing groups, and I have been part of a few writers workshops and other in-person groups. In college, I took creative writing courses and have a number of friends who are award winning authors, yadda yadda yadda. One of the hard things to get past is the level of experience in these groups.

90% of people in college writing courses or online writers groups are people who have only begun their journey into the wonderful and maddening world or writing. Most of them will not continue past their first story. The rest are probably some percentage of people who have dabbled in getting published, written a vanity project, or bound a memoir together for their closest two dozen family members–maybe two or three of which have actually read the book.

The top 1% might actually get published. Another 2% will probably do what I’ve done and flirted with professional recognition for decades (with a handful of publishing credits). Somehow the stories I send out usually don’t make the cut. While you watch people-who-know-people climb the ranks and sell some treatment to Amazon or Netflix or Ridley Scott buys their IP and they buy a sailboat and post their Stories on Instagram, giving half a shit as to whether or not their world or characters were treated respectfully.

Damn, it would be cool to sell out.

I’ve noticed something about being in the 2%. These groups are frustrating as hell, because most of the people in these groups hear that you have been published or that you have written a first draft and they are in awe of it. A first draft is quite the accomplishment! they might say. Which it is. But a first draft is also complete and total garbage. Congratulating someone on a first draft feels like whenever someone grits their teeth and says “It’s an honor just to be nominated.”

When someone is timid about submitting a story to a magazine, it is endearing, but hardly the barrier to overcome you once thought it was ten years and a hundred rejection letters later. I’ve heard of people saving their rejection letters. Sure, I guess. Sorta like using constructive criticism in a job interview you didn’t land for the next interview at a completely different company that doesn’t want the same thing.

I look at my first draft and I see what the hazmat crews see when they open up the front door to a hoarder’s house. Most of it is unnecessary. A lot of it is broken and just needs to be chucked. And all of it reeks. Don’t be surprised if you find some dead cats and black mold.

A first draft might be an amazing accomplishment, but it’s a lot like finishing a video game only to realize that you just went through the tutorial to show you how to use the controls. The rest of the game is starting now and all of those powers and controls you got have to be earned back again as you level up.

I’m not enthusiastic about my second draft, because it feels a little like polishing a turd. Then the third draft will be mercilessly cutting scenes and chapters and rewrites just to make sure it isn’t a giant mess of garbage. It’s crazymaking because you cut stuff that once held significance, only to realize that A) nobody but you will care, B) You probably could have avoided putting it in in the first place and saved yourself a lot of effort. C) If you bang your head against your desk, it still counts as writing.

I really…just…want…to quit right now.

So, right now I’m going to work on some edits. And then write some more copy for money. As much as I might complain, the edits will be more fulfilling.

Grinding to a halt

Jeez, today I was optimistic when I woke up that I would just be able to jump into the assignments I have to do. And you know what? I’m frozen. I’ve opened up my app several times today and just look at it and feel almost like a physical wall is in front of me. I am feeling like I’m in the middle of a full existential shut down right now.

It’s not that I don’t want to do them, it’s just that they don’t matter. There’s no meaning in doing them other than to give me some money. I know I did that kind of thing for 20 plus years, but today it is just hitting hard. There has to be a better way, only I’m just not seeing it. Or I become so physically and emotionally exhausted from stress that I sleep all the time.

I’ve been enjoying my dreams lately though. Real honest to God, weird dreams.

It’s been a while since I’ve had that.

One of the hard things to do right now is reprogram my mind as far as what there is to live for. My kids have been completely inculcated by their mom to hate/fear me, so my only purpose in my children’s lives is to be their mother’s personal piggy bank. There isn’t a lot of meaning in that, other than bearing witness to my own suffering.

I have a fear that if I say such things outloud, they will be used against me, because not only are we supposed to eat bullshit by the spoonfull, we are supposed to say thank you and ask for seconds. The courts have been petty and vindictive through all of this.

My attempts at relationships has gone to the point where I honestly no longer care (or anticipate) a romantic relationship ever again. That’s the real kicker too, because from an early age we are all taught to believe that someone else will complete us. Men especially have been told to believe that providing for others, be it financial or emotional support, is something that gives us meaning.

I keep thinking about the last person I opened up to and how when I was rejected, it made me feel like what I had to bring to the table wasn’t worthy of her appreciation. Who is to say that any of that was what I wanted or if it was just what I’ve been told to want my whole life. Maybe that’s why she rejected me too? She saw that others needed her codependency more than I did. Yes, that sounds mean, because it is mean. I’m codependent myself. Game recognize game.

Fuck, it’s nearly been a year since I saw her in person…yet I keep thinking about what is lost. I keep thinking if our “friends” hadn’t just left us alone and stayed out of it, things would be different. But fuck it, they aren’t. I have to let go. I have to harden my heart from such things because they aren’t meant for me. I’ve been hobbling myself, trying to fit into this mold of what is expected of me. This lie that I’ve been taught to believe that finding Your Person will be a freeing experience, when I have rarely ever seen it do anything but constrain you. When you are solo, you can move freely, not be encumbered by the expectations of others, and not have to do even more shit you don’t like just to make sure they have a nice car or cell phone or good food on the table.

I’ve seen so much more of people using each other, rather than pulling each other up and forward. So not only do I have to fight myself, I have to fight them to be better. I think I’m done.

I feel like an Olympiad who has just been told that all the training they’ve spent their whole lives doing is never going to be used because they cannot compete in that event. It’s liberating and terrifying all at once. And I know that once I make this decision, there’s no going back.

What if finding meaning in my case isn’t so much love or supporting someone other than myself, but finding beauty in this world, appreciating other cultures, and having experiences? There are other ways to find meaning. Loving someone in spite of themselves was just something I’ve always been good at because it is all I have ever known. And so far, I haven’t met anyone who actually wanted the love I had to give.

I have a story to tell, several actually, but right now I feel like it’s all just such a mess, and you can starve to death with a story to tell. I guess the meaning for the assignments is they keep me from starving. And writing is writing. A bad day writing is always better than a good day sitting behind a desk, watching your life tick away. That shit was killing me like cancer.

Like I said, I have to deprogram myself. Relationships are as much of a sham as the lie of “Get your college degree and you’re almost guaranteed a better life!”

Writing has meaning for me, and it is a trade I have practiced at most of my life. I love it. Maybe that’s why I’m blocked today, because I’m using these fine-tuned tools to do some rough work that will never be anything more than a way for an algorithm to put a website on the front page of a Google search.

The reason this looks easy isn’t because it is easy. Writing is not something most people can do, but for whatever reason because everyone can talk, they also think they can write. So they pay accordingly. Or take for granted the work writers do. Or build a computer than makes something that vaguely sounds like writing so they don’t have to pay people who actually do it.

Nobody reads hardly at all anymore. Right now, I just hope one day to have an idea picked up on Netflix so I can say to hell with it and try to search for meaning on a beach in Belize, drinking rum until my liver explodes.

It would be just swell if I could get paid to write my books. Right now, that pathway is looking very murky. So guess it’s copy for slip and fall injuries for now.

Getting my footing

The last couple of days have been very rough as far as creativity goes. It was good to get out and go hiking for a day, and my calf muscles are still jacked, but no longer in as much pain. Lately I feel like I’m in the midst of an existential crisis. I am looking at a reboot of my life and have a lot of different decisions I need to make. My heart just hasn’t been into the editing of the book, but I asked a friend of mine if she would like to take a crack at reading it. She agreed and so tonight I compiled what I had of the first 400 pages and sent it to her.

I know it has a lot of problems, mostly overtelling the story. I somehow need to pull back my focus and get the story across without getting lost in the details. But having another set of eyes on it will keep me honest,I hope, and let me trim it down as needed.

Today was a good day for other reasons in writing. In 2014 I wrote a fantasy novel which takes place in an alternate history World War One which has magic and dragons and teleporting airships and witches and all sorts of stuff. Because I was going through my divorce shortly after it was published, I had no opportunity to market the sucker. So far I’ve only make around $150 in sales.

Until today.

I approached a local bookstore, who bought copies from me and will be selling it in their shop. Ideally this is what happens is you market your self-published work to mom and pop bookstores and they carry them in a local authors table. For that book, it isn’t about getting rich, but sharing a fun story with people I think they will like. Hopefully someone buys the books and reads them.

I have plenty of articles to write this week and hopefully I’ve gotten the majority of procrastination out of the way so I can tackle those assignments. I think I would be more inclined to just jump into it if they didn’t wait for weeks and weeks before buying anything.