Contradictions in First Drafts

Denise’s hair is blue. Denise’s hair is auburn. Denise isn’t real. Denise is the only real thing that matters. Olive isn’t real. Lake isn’t real. Frank’s hair is auburn.

Something that snags me all the time is getting the names, genders, personal attributes, motivations, and even ways of speaking of the characters I’m writing. This is a first draft problem I’m sure lots of writers deal with. It’s a lot to keep in my head. It’s a problem for me because so much of my writing doesn’t get past the first draft. I’ve been writing first drafts for the last decade. I’m stuck. I’ve been a first draft writer for ten years. Frank’s hair is blue.

I’m writing about my writing in the hopes that I’ll kickstart a little bit of actual writing. I’ve got it in my head that maybe novels are too big for me right now. I was working on a novel—I Know Your Real Name Now—but the energy for that one ran out. Big unfinished projects weigh on me. It feels like I’m carrying it around, and unfinished novel” becomes a guilt hammer while I’m doing anything else. If you are what you spend your time on, then I’m mostly someone who works and watches movies. Below that, I play video games, do chores, try to work out, and doomscroll like everyone else. Somewhere below re-organize my closet” is fiction writing time. Denise isn’t real but sometimes wishes he was.

In the last two years I’ve gone from writing a good amount to none at all, from feeling very guilty about that to feeling okay. I’ve gone months without writing and it’s been fine. This is actually okay, really. It means I don’t need to write in order to be okay. Writing isn’t an integral part of the being okay” process. I’ve been writing fiction since I was in grade school. I’ve only stopped” in the last few years. And yeah, I’ve done no writing during the pandemic. It hasn’t sparked any creative outlets.

I’m hoping that I’ll kickstart a little bit of fiction writing because I still like it, man. I don’t think I was bad at it. Okay, I’m less than ace at keeping character details 100% straight, and Olive and his auburn hair isn’t going to keep her straight themselves. I’ve got that work to do. But that shouldn’t be the thing that stops me.


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