I just spent way too long trying to track down a quote that I heard a few months ago. To no avail. This is essentially what it said: “Writing your first draft is like sitting down to a meal with rotten food.” I thought this was hilarious at the time, but since then, I’ve been experiencing it in real time as I’ve been trying to finish the big piece that has been really challenging to tie up (and now I find the reference to rotten food even more amusing than before!). The funny thing is that even for the most brilliant musicians (as a general rule), something inspiring and brilliant doesn’t often come out on the first try. It usually comes out rocky and stuttering initially. Why does that surprise us? It sounds, well, human…And yet, when we sit there looking at what we feel like is rotten food, it is hard for us to believe anything good can come of it, and we often want to just throw it all in the garbage. (Let’s make that “I just want to throw it in the garbage!”)
But if we throw it away at that stage, we will never get to experience the magic that comes through the process. It’s the editing that cleans up all the rough spots and messes and makes it glow. That’s not to say that you or I never have moments that it just flows and we feel full of inspiring ideas. However, at least for me, this “stroke of genius” happens infrequently and for brief moments. This is good news, because otherwise, until genius strikes, we have to wait for it. With reality as it is, get that first draft down (gag if you must) so the process of refining, editing, and shining can take place. The trick, I’m learning, is to move my work through the process of drafting, editing, finishing faster so that my brain learns when it sees rotten food that there are more courses to come- and it’s worth staying at the table!