And now the third draft, now the horror

by SJ Griffin

The finishing of a second draft is like the aftermath of a difficult birth, somewhere between a shark attack and prison riot.

To anyone else I imagine that the pile of white A4 paper on the table beside me looks like a neat stack of typed pages, with clean double spacing and tidy left justification. To me, however, it looks very different.

I start, as we all do, with an idea. A beautiful idea. As that first rush of infatuation blossoms into the possibility of something more meaningful I can’t help but imagine all the wonderful, life-changing things we’re going to do together, me and this idea. The idea grows a little and begins to take up space in journals and waste books, cryptic, teasing sentences appear as notes on my phone. The idea becomes a clearer vision, a point in the future that I can see as brightly, as a beautiful Nantucket house, perched on the end of a sandbank in the sunshine, or a long beach with a longer cocktail, the sound of surf pounding the sand. I can describe the idea in just the right amount of detail, it is comfortingly familiar but has lost none of its allure.

And then I write it all down. This is the first draft, this is humiliating, like a bad date you didn’t want o go on anyway, so I write it all over again.

And so the second draft is birthed.

It lies on the table like an aborted alien baby that fell all the way to earth and crashed into something spiky and belligerent. The red, wet tatters of my beautiful idea. I shut it away because I can’t let anyone see it. But this is worse than the humiliation. This is shame. It’s my fault. I brought this hideous, mewling monstrosity into the world and now I want to turn my back on it, leave it to breathe its final damp lungful of fetid air, leave it to waste away.

Except I can’t leave it. Not only because this poor innocent creature that I have wronged stares up at me every minute of the day, awake or asleep, with soul drenched, pleading eyes. Not only because I can still see in traces of its profile or the curl of his fingers the promise of the idea. No, because I am too arrogant to stop. It’s not about the idea anymore. It’s not about giving life to something beautiful, that’s gone, it’s been destroyed in the earthbound plummet. This is about me now. I will not let it die because I have to fix it. I have to patch it up, make it social. I have to prove that I can. I have to see through what I started because otherwise I will have to admit that I failed. And I would rather drag this disgusting, bowel-loosening wretch around with me, very where, every minute of my life than admit that.

So, onward I go, onward. Shameless and hopeful.

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