the first draft self
life with fewer guardrails on
hi friends, another short post this week. sidenotes: 1. I love love the new substack app and highly recommend reading stuff on there. 2. It’s been a rocky personal week but as always have found writing to be extremely comforting - a little corner of sun. hope you are holding up well.
The other day I walked from the Presidio to Hayes, my headphones glued to my head, feeling sunburnt, feeling like my heart was fully in my throat. I told someone the other day that I’ve been living my life with fewer guardrails on. As a result of this, there’s been a few precarious, jolting moments recently where I’ve looked at my life and been like oh my god everything is moving so quickly. It’s net good, I hope.
Recently I’ve come up with a theory of life-living. I’m calling it ‘first draft mentality’. I want this to be a central theme of my life, and seek out other people who also have this same mindset. Having a first draft mentality is being unafraid to put something down on paper, even if it’s a skeleton of what a finished-product should be. Iterating from the past and changing it until you get somewhere exquisite. Being open to a little play and experimentation. Listening closely to the deepest part of your heart and what sound it makes when something profound emerges. Doing things because you believe they matter, even if there’s no proof yet that they do.
What I love about this metaphor is that the first draft of anything doesn’t have a moral valence – the draft isn’t right or wrong. It’s just the first step. Get rid of the fear that doing something (and messing up) makes it permanent, and instead see it as part of the process. We’re constantly reinventing ourselves, so why not have a bit fun with it? Throw some stuff on paper, make some art, grow some plants, talk to that person, take yourself somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, do the thing, make some mistakes. Making a first, shitty little draft of something will always show you more than endlessly thinking and living in your head ever will.
I love this Rachel Cusk interview quote shared via Ava: “Some people have a lot farther to go from where they begin to get where they want to be—a long way up the mountain, and that is how it has been for me. I don’t feel I am getting older; I feel I am getting closer.” Our lives are moving drafts in which we reinvent ourselves over and over: every version getting closer – becoming more clear, luminous, and whole.
Example of first drafts through Edward Hoppers’ sketches
Special excerpts/quotes from what I’m reading this week
Helgoland by Carlo Rovelli
I’m obsessed with physics-as-metaphor and this book is simply gorgeous. I also loved seven brief lessons in physics by the same author – an idea that caught my eye is Entanglement as a metaphor for human interdependence.
This is New York by E.B White (thanks G)
“A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without any doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.”
A Gentleman in Moscow (thanks S)
“Alexander Rostov was neither scientist nor sage; but at the age of sixty-four he was wise enough to know that life does not proceed by leaps and bounds. It unfolds. At any given moment, it is the manifestation of a thousand transitions.”