So I recently watched one of the new WheezyWaiter videos (I haven’t watched WheezyWaiter videos for a couple of years now), and it was him talking about having set himself the goal of writing some short stories for a project he initiated, but never got around to writing anything.
He explained that the biggest factor contributing his failure to get that project off the ground was his tendency to be a perfectionist. Because he wants the stuff he makes to be perfect, the prospect of producing something that is imperfect hindered himself from ever starting. He figured that if he wasn’t sure if the thing would turn out perfect or not, he would have the tendency to just not do it altogether. He thought “daripada buat benda tak elok, baik tak payah buat apa-apa langsung!” And so he let the project slip his mind, rather intentionally, I might add.
He explained in the video to the audience (and to himself, one feels) that that kind of thinking was toxic for a creative person, since firstly, there’s no such thing as perfection so there’s really no point in striving for it, and secondly, it stopped him from making stuff. Sure if he made something and it turned out bad, it would suck, but that first suckiness forms the basis for better things. One has to start at a sucky level and then polish that turd into something more and more presentable.
I remember listening to that lecture in one of my first days on campus in university, the polishing the turd into something okay. The lecturer blatantly said that the first draft is always always always going to be shit. But without the shit, there won’t be gold. The job of the writer is to take that piece of shit that s/he produced and polish it, cut it up, put it back together, trim it down to something in its core that is pure gold, and that is the magic that the writer can do, to turn poop into gold.
One of the most common writer tips that I find in and around the internet is this saying: writing is re-writing. One screenplay-writing twitter account even said once that you would have to rewrite something 20-30 times for it to actually be finished, so it definitely believes that the first few drafts are exactly that, drafts, and drafts aren’t meant to be published. They are meant to be worked on, improved upon and made better.
One of the writing prompts that a twitter user I follow (@morsmode) tweeted about reminded me of this. The prompt was the word “avalanche”, and it made me think about how the writing process is supposed to be, at least in the beginning. It’s not supposed to be a quality controlled screening process from the get-go, where every word needs to be carefully measured for perfection before being placed upon the plain page. It’s supposed to be an avalanche of ideas, words and feelings. We needn’t worry if it makes sense or not, since it’s not yet time for that. It’s just time to write, not time to rewrite, so the writer just has to write until s/he can no longer write. Knock some sense into it when we go back to it later and edit it to make sure it makes sense and is worded better, and this will take a long time. But for the beginning, just let the avalanche happen and bury ourselves in the mountain of words.