First Draft

The Best Writer in the Room (Give or Take 30 English Students)

As many of you know, I just started my Junior year here at the University of Rochester, NY. I’m studying entrepreneurship but also creative writing, as a minor. I’m a transfer student which means I came from a community college.

In the first week of school, my playwright professor led the class in a writing “Impulse” exercise. Basically, it goes like this:

You close your eyes and relax. A detailed scene is spoken before you and after a few quiet moments, you write non-stop for fifteen-minutes.

I’ve done these exercises before but have never really appreciated them. Often, other writers tell me the importance of writing a first draft non-stop without editing. Personally, I hate doing that. I don’t know why. I stop and read and edit. I’m positive it’s why my blog posts take so damn long.

Regardless, I did the impulse-exercise and the results came out as expected: a jumbled mess of words and a decent start. Nothing to write home about.

I was ignorant because I assumed everyone around me had a similar situation. A complete mess. But I was wrong. The professor asked students to read their work. Out-loud. Yes. I was wrong.

I listened to my classmates read their work, and it was absolutely amazing. I’m surrounded by wonderful, talented writers. In the fifteen minutes of writing, most (if not all) managed wonderful characters, detailed settings, and accomplished word-usage. I looked down at my work:

The cat go meow. Dog chase it on park. Cow go moo. 

Crap. I have some work to do.

Chicken Scratch

For most of my academic career, I’ve been the best writer in the room. That reads kind of cocky, but it’s true. Students in community college just don’t care. I put actual effort into my papers and found it really easy to impress my instructors and fellow students. Scholarships, literary journals, 4.0, etc.

At Rochester, the tables have turned. I’m no longer the best writer in the room. It turns out, everybody in the room is a good writer and often better.

Wait. Don’t Go! I’m not fishing for compliments (I promise).

As tempted as I was to drop-out and reenroll in community-chicken-college to satisfy my comfort zone, I know it would do me no good. It hurts when you learn you’re not the best at what you thought you were. I’m a decent writer; I know that, but I need to grow. That’s okay. I can always get better.

Despite the gross sense of intimidation and inadequacy I’ve faced this last week, I’m absolutely positive I’m in the right place. Every writer needs a push, and I’ve been pushed. In fact, since that first class, I’ve been working on my writing more than I ever have. Thank God for that. 

(I know it’s healthy because it stings).

Ever find yourself in a similar situation? Any advice? How do you write a first draft?

Advertisements