Blogging and pure first drafts

One of the best things about blogs, at least for me, is that I can get new material from writers I like, and much more often (daily or even more often) than waiting for a new book by them (every few years). And almost all of my favorite authors blog. I’m not sure that should surprise anyone – writers write, and blogging is writing, and since most writers write because they want readers to read their writings, it’s a marriage made in some heavenly (though material and scientific) place.

And so today I read Neil Gaiman (though he calls it a “Journal” and not a “blog”). Fans of his have noticed that he writes his first draft out longhand, in some beautiful Italian leather-bound book, and to the fans’ surprise, Mr. Gaiman has not made any edits to his copy – no cross-outs, no line-outs, no scribbles in the margins. They write to him, and he replies:

If I’m writing fiction by hand I’ll put a loose line through something that I’m definitely not going to use (but I’d never pull it out, and I’d normally want it to be readable in case I change my mind, or in case there’s something there I can use). But for me the important thing is that it’s pure first draft, straight out of the head and onto the page, sort of like this blog. The important thing is moving forward, for me: editing, fixing, tidying, leaving stuff out, that’s all for when I put it onto the computer, that’s all for the second draft.

This is very good advice, and not just for writers. Just do it, just start; take that first step; start now. Begin and see what happens. Say “yes”, and shelve your worry and tell your negative inner voice (the voice of “Mom”, saying “No”) to pipe down.

There are no mistakes, in a first draft. There’s pure thought becoming pure action. Save everything. Judge nothing. Later, when the thought has run its course, you can go back and collect the things you like and set aside the things you don’t (but you may still want those things for different projects, and even if you don’t, they still stand as examples of what you tried).

For instance, I’ve had an idea of collecting and posting links to my favorite authors’ blogs, and calling out the ones who don’t blog (Tim Powers, you rascal; why don’t you blog?!), the ones who do, and the ones who might blog a bit too much (Bruce Sterling, I’m lookin’ at you – You write so much, that it’s theoretically possible to keep up with everything you write, but there are practical limits to how much one fan can do).

But that post idea became this actual post, and on the whole, I’d rather post actual posts, rather than think about potential posts – and I hope that anyone reading this feels the same!