The First Draft Conundrum

I was brainstorming an idea for an illustration the other day and I remembered a motivational post I read a while ago, by another artist, saying to shut away your inner snob during the first stages of a project. This is the part where you let your imagination run wild and it shouldn’t be hindered by feelings of self-doubt and scrutiny. I am very aware of this when I’m drawing and really enjoy the freedom. So why is it so much harder when it’s translated to writing? That first draft of a piece of fiction, when I’m trying to shut out my inner editor and write without inhibitions, is always more difficult for me than a first draft of a drawing.

Maybe it’s because writing is much more personal for me. Art is personal too but it tends to reflect my happy/silly/carefree side whereas my writing is much darker and can be much more melancholy. I’d like to point out I don’t dwell on miserable things; on the contrary I’m a relatively happy person and it’s probably because I put all my twisted tortured darkness onto the page instead of letting it build up inside (which I did for many years though that’s another post entirely!).

Maybe it’s because writing is so easy to get wrong; there are lots of examples of bad writing (I’m guilty of some of it). Art isn’t so hard really. You can draw scribbly sketches and it’s art. You can paint different coloured dots on a canvas and it’s art. Art is subjective and open to discussion. Writing isn’t. It doesn’t take an expert to read a piece of writing and know if it’s good or bad. And you have to be able to engage people’s attentions for longer. You’re asking for so much more from them than just a glance at your picture. No matter the length of your writing, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, it’s going to be more involving than a painting (usually; there are exceptions as always).

Even though I love writing, it’s always going to be more of a challenge for me than drawing, though some people seem to think that requires greater skill. It’s easy to paint a picture that evokes certain feelings by using the right shapes, colour, subject matter…it’s much more difficult to achieve the same effect with words.

Whatever the reason, it’s all part of the learning process. It seems every day I learn something about my craft or about myself and that can only be a good thing. Putting the first draft conundrum into the context of art has actually helped my mental process as far as writing goes. If I can be free and uninhibited with one, why can’t I do it with the other? The answer: I can.



5 thoughts on “The First Draft Conundrum

  1. I once likened my first draft phase as ‘vomiting’ on the computer screen/page. It’s a case of ‘anything goes’ in the first draft, it’s only when I go back to edit that I add and remove things or change bits around. I think writing has the added bonus of the author being able to remove bits without damaging the whole picture which perhaps isn’t so easy when painting etc.

    Of course, I am an awful artist and cannot draw/sketch/paint to save my life and so I cannot speak with any authority on art! 😆

    • Vomiting is a good way of putting it, I’ve used that phrase before as well! I never thought about it that way; it is easier to rearrange words than a picture. Maybe that’s why it’s harder for me to get my head round first drafts of writing because when I’m drawing, it needs to be more accurate a lot sooner, if that makes sense. Wow I am having a very enlightening day! Thanks 🙂

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