Wednesday, June 1, 2011

First Attempts--Drafting from Another Angle

The school I work for is in the middle of a huge branding campaign. We're a confusing little entity in the university system, and are trying to get our name and message out to students in a way that, well, makes sense. So the Powers That Be hired a creative consulting firm to work with us.

In today's meeting, they shared Thing One and Thing Two--their first two attempts at marketing materials. Their presenter discussed how excited they were about the first attempt, the thought process that went into it, the innovative design ideas.

When he lifted up the posterboard, there was a quiet, restrained, but definite communal cringe.
That's first drafts for you.

First drafts are important--they get the ideas on paper, they start the creative juices flowing, they make a first stab. Sometimes they're pretty good, and give you a great head start. Sometimes they totally stink. It's what comes after first drafts that's important.

Before showing us Thing Two, the presenter shared that the team had really struggled with coming up with changes after realizing Thing One had some flaws. They threw ideas back and forth, tried a few things, played with text and graphics and colors.

Basically, they did a rewrite.

And the presenter didn't tell us--and I'm not telling you--anything you don't already know about creative endeavors, writing included. Revision is hard. Rewriting is harder. Redoing work you've already done is discouraging, and even more so when you feel like you've expended your creative energy on the first round.

But then the presenter showed us Thing Two.

And there was an unrestrained, appreciative communal gasp. The pieces were visually stunning and captured the concepts perfectly. In short? They were completely different from Thing One.

The work had been completely rewritten.

So what's the lesson on revision? First drafts are often just the bridge from nothing to beautiful work. Sometimes little or nothing is left of the first draft once all is said and done--and that's ok. Sometimes there's plenty of the original left,with just some tweaking. Regardless, holding fast to that first idea, those first words, won't get you anywhere. The point is to create, uninhibited, and refine it later, without attachment to what you created.

What do you think about Round One of projects?


Connie said...

Soooo true. I've just started writing something new and cringing at the results. A friend had to remind me that it's supposed to be bad--it's a first draft.

Jill said...

First drafts are great for initial sparks and inspiration, but they often get it all wrong. But if you're like me, you won't get it right by draft 2. Nope. I'm a draft 6 or 7 kind of person. :(

Rowenna said...

Connie--cringing is ok in moderation--just keep writing!

Jill--so true! You have to let that be ok, however you write :)

Caroline said...

I'm not a fan of first drafts. I have too much perfectionism to just let go and write something without going back and re-reading, tweaking, etc. I've been like that since childhood as I remember having to do first and final drafts in school. I remember thinking it was a stupid exercise because whatever I turned in would be my best. I think the teacher wanted to strangle me!

Fallen Timbers said...

I love your posts! Hope you had fun last weekend at the Rendezvous. The weather was terrific in the shade. I have two thoughts for you.

Thought one: Perfect is the enemy of good. I believe that all the perfect ideas never see the light of day because the thinkers of those perfect thoughts are immobilized by their fear of imperfect reality which leaves the world of doing to we who mostly get things done good, then sometimes better with practice, but never perfect.

Thought two: The story of the bad idea followed by the good idea reminds me of the story about the man who told his wife their dog had died and then quickly corrected himself saying "I'm joking! He didn't die he did pee on the carpet see how much worse things could have been?"

Rowenna said...

Caroline--I'm with you--I'm embarrassed to share anything that I don't think is good already, so first drafts embarrass me!

FT--Thanks! I did have fun at Vincennes--for the first time in years, it wasn't ungodly hot! Yay! And I agree--letting go of perfect allows you to create!