‘How Do I Let a Draft be a Draft?’

Invite the necessary uncertainty.

Hi there,

If you are still looking to get some dedicated writing time in with a group of other writers from The Reading, there is one more Writing Space for this month on Thursday, 3/24 at 14:00 EST. Subscriber code at the end of this letter.

Now, on with the work.

Dear Yanyi,

Thank you for The Reading, and thank you to all of the writers asking questions I didn’t know I was carrying myself. This has been a really treasured component of my never-ending writing education, and it’s great to be here with you all.

I’m a poet, mostly, but sometime last winter I decided to start writing a novel. I love fiction and I help edit books in my day job. In many ways, it really just felt like time to take my idea and run with it, to try to sustain my creative practice with a real, full-length draft. To see if I could actually do it!

I’m around halfway through, and it’s been a powerful learning experience already. That said, I struggle to “let go” and just fall into the experience of writing. I worry I’m not following my notes/research, I worry about continuity and all kinds of nitpicky things, I worry about leaving each sentence shiny and lovely and getting stuck when it’s time to move to the next one. Intellectually, I know I’m probably capable of fixing and improving the manuscript further down the road—my editing pays the bills. How to let go and let a draft be a draft and trust my “future self” for a revision one day?

Present Self

Dear PS,

Thank you for your letter. Perhaps this letter reaches you a year too late—or perhaps it will still be of some help, whatever writing you are doing now.

Sometimes it is difficult to write if you’ve being harsh on yourself, in which case it may help to fail on purpose. It’s also possible that your editing brain is just still on when you’re working on the novel. You know what you would say to one of your authors—so why would you let it slide when you’re working on something for yourself?