I’m watching the old (2000) movie, Finding Forrester, as I work on this blog post. Have you seen it? It’s the story of an aging agoraphobic author played by Sean Connery (the only actor worthy of the name Bond, in my opinion) and his young protoge’, a brilliant inner city kid named Jamal. Forrester tells Jamal to start writing, and Jamal replies that he’s thinking of what to write. Forrester replies, “No thinking. That comes later.” He goes on to say, “Write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not think.”
What excellent advice summed up in a few sentences! So many novice writers want perfection from the start and they work and rework one page in the time they could write twenty. Early in my writing days, I belonged to a wonderful critique group. Critique groups are great; I highly recommend them. Group members can help you polish your work, but more importantly, they give you support while you’re writing. The problem I found over time, though, was that being in a critique group forced me to spend too much time thinking and not enough time writing from the heart.
I know many writers who polish as they go, trying to make that first draft fit for publication right from the start. Some of them succeed at it, too, but I’m with Forrester. My first draft is always written with my heart. It’s messy, full of blank spaces, half sentences, and is very short on detail, but it has plenty of emotion and always contains the central thread of the story.
I had to leave my beloved critique group when my writing settled my current “sloppy first draft” pattern, because I never had work that was polished enough to be critiqued in a timely fashion. My current group of writing buddies and I are all published and all working under one deadline or another, so we rarely have the time–or the desire–to critique each other’s writing. Rather we brainstorm and commiserate over the vagaries of the writing business. And we write wonderful sloppy first drafts, straight from the heart.