I think a drafts file is an important writing tool. What is it? It’s the file where I keep unfinished stories and blog posts. Most of them are only a few paragraphs long. Why keep them? Well, that needs a longer explanation.
When I write a story for my blog, I start with an idea I find interesting. I think about it for a while until I can imagine where the story will go and maybe a few scenes or lines of dialogue. And then I sit down and write and see where it goes from there.
Sometimes it doesn’t go where I expected. That can be interesting, or it can be a problem. Sometimes as I’m writing I realize that what I had planned just won’t work. Or that it’s too similar to something else I wrote. There are many reasons that my writing stops in the middle.
When I’m not sure where to go next, and I’ve given myself a little time to think about it, I give up on whatever I’m writing. I copy it into my drafts file and save it for later. And while I’m there, I look at the other unfinished stories and see if there is one that I have some new ideas for that I can write instead.
Strangely enough, there often is something that will work. I’ll read a story fragment and I’ll see a new path to an ending that I didn’t see before. Sometimes, I’ll start writing and have to stop again and copy the new, slightly longer fragment to my drafts file. Then I’ll try something else. Usually, however, the new path works and I have something else to write and post.
I also keep a story idea notebook and some comic sketchbooks that I use for ideas. One of my rules is that when I have an idea, I need to add it to the book without judging it right away. Often, I think that an idea isn’t very good at the time, but later I like it much better.
It works the same way with my drafts file. The stories that I have abandoned as broken often turn out to be fixable. It’s just hard to see the fix when I’m stuck and can’t continue writing the story in the direction I initially planned.
Life is like that sometimes I guess. Problems sometimes need time and patience and a different perspective. Things that we can’t seem to fix right away may have a fix we can’t see right now.
June Johnson once said that she was late picking up her husband and felt terrible. She was sure that this was a problem that couldn’t be fixed, because she couldn’t travel back in time. But, when she arrived, her husband was just getting out of his meeting. The meeting ran late, so she wasn’t late picking up her husband. The problem was fixable in a way she hadn’t expected.
In a parenting class, the teacher once told us a story from the French Revolution. I’ve since searched for the story, but can’t find it, so I don’t know if it’s true or not. A mob of citizens had gathered to protest in the town square, and a soldier was sent by his superiors to fire on the rabble. If he refused, he would be killed for treason. If he fired on the mob, he would be killing townspeople that he knew well.
It may seem an impossible dilemma. The soldier, however, saw a third option. He went out, and announced, “I have been ordered to fire on the rabble. However, I see many good citizens among you. Would the good citizens leave, so that I can fire on the rabble?” The mob dispersed, and when no one was left, he fired a few shots in the air and left, duty done.
There is a path. In the story or painting you’re stuck on. In the problem you can’t solve. In the decision you need to make. It may take time and patience and prayer and a different perspective. You may need to set it aside or ask for advice. There is a way. Even if you can’t see it yet. That’s why I keep a drafts file.
Do you keep a drafts file? An idea file or notebook or sketchbook? Do you find that you can fix a broken or stuck story or picture if you leave it alone and come back to it later?