I was sitting in a British and Irish romantic drama class my last semester in college when the idea for Shit Rough Drafts hit me. I was working through a humor piece for the school paper and was in the midst of a rough draft. My deadline was in a few hours, and instead of paying attention to the class, I was in turmoil over the shit state of my 500-700 word humor column for the George Mason University Broadside. The idea I had was funny, but the draft was rough, and I was cursing my deadline, wondering why I had ever agreed to it.
I was staring at the rough draft in front of me that looked like the ravings of a lunatic. There were cross-outs and curse words, doodles and arrows, and then more curse words. It was an absolute mess and I felt defeated. I knew it was just a rough draft, but it was still my work, and it was bad. It was in that moment of defeat that I thought about other writers' suffering. I wasn't the only one who had shitty drafts. Everyone had shitty drafts. I took solace in the fact that every book I'd ever read probably looked like the sheet of crap in front of me at some point. There was no trick to it. A draft is a draft is a draft, and it's shit.
The trailers for the Great Gatsby movie had just been released, so the book was on my mind. In that moment, I thought about F. Scott Fitzgerald coming up with the title for his book and trying every adjective but "Great," and just never being satisfied. It made me chuckle, and that's when the idea hit me. I quickly scribbled down a few fake rough titles for the book. Instead of submitting for my deadline, I started a Tumblr for it. I thought it was funny enough to stand on its own, and even if it wasn't, it made me laugh.
I eventually came back to the draft in front of me and made the deadline. It still wasn't perfect, but I finished it and turned it in on time.
Shit Rough Drafts, on the other hand, turned into a book. A real book that is really coming out in real life. All because of a deadline. The deadline made me write for hours every day. It pushed me to create when I wasn't in the mood, wasn't "inspired," and when I had other things on my plate. I wasn't allowed to be perfect; I was forced to be on schedule.
Ninety-nine percent of what I write is still shit. I'm not a great writer, and I'm constantly frustrated by the drafts I put out, but I'm a strict writer. I have a schedule, and I stick to it. I set deadlines each week for myself, and try to meet them. It never comes easy, and I hope it never does.
If it did, I don't think I would want to be a writer anymore. I'd do something easy, like play in the NBA or become president or something.
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Paul Laudiero is the author of Sh*t Rough Drafts: Pop Culture's Favorite Books, Movies, and TV Shows as They Might Have Been. He is a writer and comedian, and lives in New York City.
Books mentioned in this post
Paul Laudiero is the author of Sh*t Rough Drafts: Pop Culture's Favorite Books, Movies, and TV Shows as They Might Have Been