first drafts

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pin-icon Clarke Quay, Singapore

I believe in the power of workshop, in the first draft of anything being shit, and that the goal of any first draft is not perfection but to simply put the words on the page. It’s been hammered into my very core as a writer: that most of the real magic lies in the editing process.

The problem with blogging, then, as I have discovered by starting this blog, is that unless you’re a blogger writing an advertorial, most of the time your draft is the product. It kind of feels like an exhibition of sketches.

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I cannot hide behind my well-trained editing eye – this is me with the rough linework, with the smudges and scuff marks. I don’t get to mull over the cadence of a sentence, of the images I choose to use, or even whether or not I agree with the post’s content a week later – I write it, maybe leave the tab open for a day or two, proofread and lightly edit it, and then publish. This process is both immensely liberating and incredibly terrifying.

Of course, the easy thing to do would be to say that there is beauty to this process -it is this belief, after all, that keeps Sylvia Plath’s Ariel drafts in the Mortimer Rare Book Room at Smith, that drives reprint after reprint of her personal diaries. Free-writing exercises are built upon this very principle: that if you let your brain unfold like a Jacob’s ladder and let it take you to the great conclusion that you don’t yet know about, you’ll find the gems and can later work backwards in revision.

It goes without saying, then, that this very process of letting the mind wander – of letting it make connections and leaps and jumps, of not knowing just what I want to say just yet, has led me to the very conclusion that this blog’s purpose might not be to exhibit anything. Sure – I like including a bunch of pictures of myself, but perhaps what this blog is is a collection of revelations – of moments, of the great sea-changes, of the places my mind and travels have taken me.

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My problem is that I cannot fully let go. If I showed you the number of revisions WordPress displays on every published post I’ve made on the blog (this post, too, has been edited more than once), you’d see that I just cannot resist the urge to tinker. I always find some less clunky, slightly more rhythmic way of saying something – why, then, should I leave the piece – published or not – as it is?

Maybe my writer’s mind is inherently unsuited for the largely spontaneous nature of blogging, or maybe what little training I’ve had as a poet has taught me that every word must be carefully selected for maximum impact – but I don’t think it’s either of those.

Here’s what I think: if the only difference between a happy and unhappy ending is where the writer ends the story (think of the domestic lives of all the Disney princesses), the conclusion of every blog post really just depends on where I choose to stop typing. This post had a radically different conclusion the first time – but if we are always works in progress, if the musing doesn’t stop even after I stop typing, then why should the ‘Publish’ button be an exercise in finality?

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