Intense Emotional Flux–or, the Virtue of “Let the Draft Sit”

The Right Writing House — Part III

Apparently underwriting a mortgage these past couple of years is one step less involved than landing a man on the moon, and the exercises in repetition are just as rigorous. AARGH!

But at last, within two weeks I’ll be ensconced in my shade-wreathéd oasis, the little town bungalow with the secret half-acre garden hidden behind, and a bright and airy writer’s loft.


Too bad I’ve completely stopped writing since the whole spectre of home-ownership first shimmered into view some six weeks since.

I’m not certain if Intense Emotional Flux even is an excuse to stop writing, though that’s somewhat more legitimate than the fact that I’ve had to bury my writing laptop (and other valuables) deep in dresser drawers during this time my condo has been shown to potential buyers.  (But it’s so inconvenient to retrieve it and have to hide it again!)

However, this longest-hiatus-since-I-began-to-write-again has afforded some writing benefits in the form of insight into the Let-It-Sit phase that is supposed to follow the parturition travail of the First Draft.

The longest month of your life

The gestation period for this First Draft was three months with final delivery achieved on January 31st. I dutifully avoided cracking open the file for the entire proscribed “one month “let-it-sit” (albeit the shortest month, even in a leap year). It was difficult not to be pre-occupied with the development and nurturing of my “baby”, but I amused myself drafting scenes for a sequel, so the traumatic separation from the world I’d created was not exactly absolute.

March came in like a lion, and so did my First Revision phase. I went at my draft with all the fury of a turkey buzzard first on scene for road kill.  I considered my First Draft fairly polished because I had had an OUTLINE.  I was so on top of things.

So of course it didn’t worry me one bit that my changes were minor, the tweaks grammatical and a few for continuity. Some of the dialogue was spiced up a bit.

Until about halfway through when I realized what a boringly mundane pile of lake pebbles I’d constructed. You know the fun of rock hunting along a shore? A single pebble can be amazing, a microcosm of Creation–for a time. But by the next day you just want to fly a kite or go skinny-dipping again or something different.

My first draft went from beginning to end according to the outline but there were no twists and turns–of the sort one can only insert after seeing what one has written. HAH ha HAH ha HAH!  Who was I to believe that, after a decade of scarcely putting pen to paper, I could spit out a draft in three months, wait a month, and know everything there was to know about polishing it up?  Warning signs to look for (Karl Popper wisdom* aside):  if your own draft bores you, it needs more than tweaking.

Emotional flux–or just the gears grinding?

So along came the house of my dreams and a GENUINE Let-It-Sit phase, and perhaps I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, because that Draft has never really been far from my mind. I don’t know if it will ever make it all the way to Polished Final Draft phase, fit for public consumption, but I’ve had all kinds of genuinely creative ideas about what’s missing from the story, ideas that never could have developed while I was bent over the draft tinkering away.

I could have been writing these past few weeks, working on other things, keeping the flame lit even as I considered my Draft from a distance, but still, the point has been made:  there’s more to writing creatively than Draft 1, Draft 2, Draft 3. . .What worked for me in grad school doesn’t cut it for novel-length fiction. That sucker can always be more complex.

Here come some more lame excuses, but I still have one giant relocation ahead of me, cats to hand-hold and placate, new roommates to get used to (I’ve chosen to leave the ivory tower), and time for writing will continue to be erratic for about another month. The Right House to Write In had better pay off, though. Emotional flux is no less and no more interesting than a new pebble.


* ‘No book can ever be finished. While working on it we learn just enough to find it immature the moment we turn away from it.‘ –Karl Popper



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