We went to a show, my friend and I. It was full of flashes of brilliance — beautiful gems that could be pulled out, polished and made into an even better show. But it was a one-time-only experience.
It was unique, rare, and temporal. It was deeply unsatisfying.
As we pondered these truths, imagining the new and gorgeous work of art that could happen if this section came out and that one expanded and it all had a more coherent frame structure — we also pondered what it was that was so deeply unsatisfying.
“You know what it is?” my friend said, “They stopped at the first draft.”
And of course that was it. We watched a first draft, knowing there was no possibility of a next draft, and still seeing the potential that a next draft could be. Frustrating.
So, of course, I will quote that Anne Lamott line about “sh*tty first drafts.” Here is whole quote:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”
It’s a great line, and a great sentiment. Just get the words out. Just work. What happens too often, what happened in that show we saw, is that people get out the first draft and stop there. The effort of putting forth that much feels like enough.
As Anne Lamott, or any other writer, would tell you — it isn’t enough. There are revisions and reworkings and next drafts to go, long before something is all the way done. Some things are never all the way done. Construction on Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s adjective-defying cathedral in Barcelona, began in 1882. It is projected to be completed in 2030. Maybe.
On a more local scale, I’ve been contemplating my professional life, and how it has shifted and changed over the years I have been a massage therapist. I’m on, I think, my third draft at the moment. And several people I know are still on their first draft.
I’m becoming aware that it is part of my mission as a massage educator to get people (and maybe the profession?) to move through whatever draft they are in right now. It’s so easy to get comfortable with a limited repertoire. Are we doing things because they are intuitively and scientifically effective, or are we doing things because we always do them?
Every new draft grows under the skin of the old draft, and when it pushes through it is often familiar enough to be recognizable. So why are we sitting with the old drafts, afraid to move through it into the next best version?
Let’s get to the next draft. Let’s start by making space for each other’s mistakes, blind spots, and outright incompetence. These things are temporary, and necessary if we are to move into something new. Just work.