“So, you’ve already settled down with an idea for a novel?” the doctor glances down at his notebook and scribbles down a few notes with his pen “Oh…what’s this? You’ve already made it into the first quarter of your book? You must be having a rather jolly time spinning that ol’ tale of yours! I’d wager it to be among the greatest of the greats!”
You gulp down a blob of saliva that had been building inside your throat for the previous minutes. You know that there’s no reason for you to be surprised at having to make this revelation, after all, that’s why you decided to go to a health clinic. Yet just fathoming having to admit it…the thought just leaves an empty pit in your stomach.
The doctor adjusts his glasses so that his piercing gaze can look down on you. There’s a sense of shame that begins to crawl up all the way from your spine into your mind. There’s no use in stalling the doctor, but if it means delaying the inevitable, you’ll go through with it in any case “Doc, I just don’t know what’s wrong. I’ve tried following all the advice that every one gives me. I make n
The doctor clears his throat and begins to jot down another set of notes in his notebook. Suddenly, you notice that you can hear the beats of your heart and that every scribble that the doctor makes takes an eternity from your view. Your feet start tapping against the ground without your control. The doctor raises his pen and bites on its tip “I see…I see. Your symptoms seem to share much in common with a variety of other diseases. However, we of the medical world take pride in our knack for precision. So before I diagnose you, I’ll need to ask you one question.”
Your heart freezes and you choke down another bout of saliva that had been forming in your mouth. Your grip your knees with either hands; fingernails trying to scrape through thick Levi jeans. You raise you head up, aware that it was bound to come to this at one point or another “What question?” you close your eyes, trying to shield yourself from what is to come.
“Do you still think that your work is salvageable?”
Your heart drops down to your stomach when you hear the final syllables of that final word being enunciated. How could you possibly answer yes to that question, this novel has been your baby for the past two months! You wouldn’t abandon your child just because he was giving you difficulties!
Or so you think.
You always had a set image of how everything that you craft would go about being read. The prose would be exquisite, and flow like caramel over an ice cream sunday. Yet that was far from the truth now.
For the past week you’ve felt like you’ve been trudging through the trenches of World War I, but without the stench of corpses. Instead, you’ve had the stench of sweating fingers which have been gifted every ounce of energy that your body could ever hope to muster. Yet not even that has been enough. Your characters have been acting strangely bland lately and your story is going nowhere! How could you lie to yourself about being able to save this garbage? Are you insane?
“I see…I see…” the doctor mutters to himself in that drab, monotone voice he’d used on you earlier. He would think of you as weak, he would mock you for giving up so easily on your work, and you were enough of a gullible fool to play his game all along “No need to worry, Mr. Author, I’m rather familiar with the symptoms that come with your disease. All that afflicts you is another case of First Draft Depression.”
It happens to the best of us. Yes, yes, there’s no shame in admitting. Sometimes, you just feel like you want to throw your manuscript into the very depths of hell so you can never see it again. And let me let you in on a little secret, friend.
I feel you.
I really do. I could stand here on a pedestal all day and talk about all the struggles that writers face in common. Yet in many of these cases one could even say that I’m just projecting my own personal problems as a writer into the whole community. But First Draft Depression? If there’s anything that we know for certain that all writers share in common, this is it.
Some people would call Writer’s Block but I wouldn’t venture to just write it off as trivially as that. FDD is something that goes beyond Writer’s Block, and I would argue is much worse. You see, at least in Writer’s Block, you can acknowledge the fact that some of your prose is good. It’s just that you’re having trouble with the current prose you’re working on. But my dear writers, FDD is the logical extreme of Writer’s Block.
Ever wake up one day and decide that you hate every single thing that you’ve written up to this point? Have you ever gotten existential with regard to how worthwhile it is to be working on your novel? Have you ever thought that every single sentence that you wrote felt clunky and poorly composed to the reader? If you’ve answered yes to any of these, then it can be said beyond the shadow of a doubt that you have felt FDD.
It’s a strange phenomenon that belongs to the same family as Writer’s Block. Yet as we’ve discussed, it’s a whole new beast.
FDD sprouts from that tendency we have as writers to be only the most
strict of perfectionists. Considering the amount of time that we pour into our work, it’s only natural that we wish every sentence and every word to carry meaning with it. One of the things that we seem to take for granted is the fact that we already have a pseudo-perfect image of what our story would be like before we even start writing. And once we realize how messy the writing process is, our inner perfectionist begins to fade away. Of course, that’s only supposed to be the case.
A lot of times, our inner perfectionist decides to stay as our mental roommate for the rest of our writing session. Sometimes he thinks it’s funny to remind us how that heartwarming scene ended up a cringy pity-fest when we put it on paper. Sometimes he tells us that none of the elements in our plots are meshing together. Sometimes, he just loves to bring up every writer that we look up to and tell us how we’ll never be anything like them.
Sometimes…well, you get the idea.
All the writing advice people say the same damn thing. They say that we need to learn to let the first draft flow on its own, that we need to wait until revision, and they do it for good reason. Yet like a bunch of other great advice, our delightful brains take joy in ignoring it.
I don’t know if there’s some masochistic element involved in people mocking their own creative works, but sometimes it just feels that way. I mean, for the Lord’s sake, if there’s anyone in this world that should be encouraging our own work it should be our minds! But no, the brain sees it fit to stand by the sidelines while tossing out slurs while you pour hours of work into your passion.
In the end it’s a hopeless cycle and the only way to cure it is by writing even more. And that’s the most ironic part! First, it makes you hate your writing which in turn makes you want to quit. When you do quit, the brain just keeps telling you how much of a loser you are! This world has no mercy, not even your own body is on your side!
To my fellow writers whom suffer from this foul affliction, I can only spare my sincerest apologies. No doubt will this vile disease seize me in due time, but as I am yet untouched I will tell all of you the only solution to this issue. Ignore your mind and write. You’ll learn early on that your mind is only good for coming up with ideas and writing prose. If it ever steps outside of its boundaries, do yourself a favor and ignore the cheeky bastard.
This has been the QuestingAuthor with another public service announcement. And as I will say until I breathe my very last breath, keep writing, my friends.