I’ve been thinking about the term “rough draft” lately, because I banged out three rough poems in the last couple of days. Not from scratch; each came from notes that had been sitting around in my folder for weeks or months. I was going to see someone special today, and I like to share poem drafts with him, so I went ahead. The results were like the Three Bears, in my opinion–one I like a lot, one’s pretty okay and one still feels stilted.
Rough: what do I think about when I hear that word? I try to embrace the fact that all poems will be rough when I first pronounce them arrived, but what does that mean?
Rough, the word itself, makes me think of harsh, uneven terrain. Rough makes me think of aggressive, physical sport or play. Rough makes me think of angry sex and grimy leather and grit.
A poem, a statue, a life can’t ever become polished if it isn’t willing to be rough.
Taking those inky scrawled notes and turning them into a draft; turning them into one of the infinite possible drafts that could have emerged from the same notes, feels like an act of supreme brashness. And it is. It’s bravado and chutzpah and in-your-face.
Revision is a time for humility. A rough cut is not. Even though I make a lot of changes in the process of creating a draft, overthinking will drain the juice out of it. Time, later, to devise changes that will improve without eviscerating.