Writing is hard. That's first.
The whole "everything you do is writing" notion notwithstanding, which I respect and honor, the actual sitting down to make a draft: hard.
Writing that draft can make you feel stupid. Stupid and stupider. Over and over again, for your whole life.
(Why do I do this, again?)
Yesterday, I finally plunged in, with all the brave bravery in my quiver of braveness, to wring a poem out of some notes that, truth be told, had been sitting around on their lazy, complacent asses all summer. "Notes," I said, "I will make a draft out of you or know the reason why!"
The notes did not even bestir themselves to look attentive. They were all, big talk for a person who hasn't written a poem in weeks. And they had a point, but I would not stand for that insolence. No! that insolence would not stand!
I disentangled a note, one with a small turn-of-phrase-of-possibility, from its slothful compatriots. I reorganized its syllables. I broke it in two, the better to form lines out of it. There, I said. A beginning.
Then did the same with another note. I discerned a form in the offing. Encouraged, I went with it: I constructed a whole draft out of two mangled notes and a nascent form.
I went to bed on the draft with this thought: I could reorganize the two settings and sort this from that, I could make it into longer stanzas instead of couplets. I thought, I'll work on it in the morning.
So I did. I checked out the entire internets and ate my breakfast (did I neglect to mention that I made a splendid dinner and cherry clafoutis last night? this is one of the side benefits of writing horrible drafts: inspiring dinners, with leftover cherry clafoutis for breakfast!). I re-investigated the entire internets to see if I might have missed something important. I forwarded a New York Times article to the historian and my oldest friend. Then I trailed, all summer and smoke--no, seriously, those fires to the east and the west are making my throat hurt and my eyes water--into my study, sat down in my big chair, and opened my draft.
I had to consider that my draft might, at this point, have the upper hand. What with its form and all. And its sheer presence.
But I opened another document, and started to sort this from that, to reorganize the two settings, to make longer stanzas.
And now I have a new draft.
So that's the second part: even a horrible first draft, wrested from indolent notes and bad formal experiments, can turn into a better second draft, as long as you're willing to let smoke, summer, weird dreams, roasted garlic and broccoli pasta with pecorino, cherry clafoutis, the entire internets, and your own sense of control (have you lost the header of this clause? Me too!)--as long as you're willing to let all of the above intervene.
Writing lesson out.