A wild turkey crossed the road in front of me this morning, and as I slowed, it started to run through the grass—running, running, running in a most unseemly fashion before spreading wings, lifting into the air, and taking flight.
Starting a piece of writing is sometimes that way for me. I feel like I’m running and running but nothing is lifting up from the page. I often have plenty of forward momentum in a first draft, but I also have the sense that things haven’t really started and I’m waiting for that feeling of liftoff. It’s a matter of sensing that I don’t really know what the piece is about. I don’t know what it is that I’ve come to the page to explore. Over the years, I’ve come to accept that it’s okay to know very little when I begin. I’ve learned to trust that the writing itself will show me what’s important.
A first draft is a draft of discovery. In that draft, it’s probably better to know very little so we can be open to where the writing takes us. The draft is always smarter than we are. It schools us. It shows us what matters. If we’re open to the instruction, our subsequent drafts will take flight. We need to understand that the only thing that matters in a first draft is that we’re putting words on the page, lots of them. Let the piece goes where it wants to go. We can shape it after we know what it is.