Author’s Note: The following should be read with a degree of patience and an acceptance that many people believe many different things. If you have problems with that… go away, I guess?
I sometimes wonder if the Bible was a first draft.
I mean, inherently, it isn’t. It’s been translated and retranslated, retold and reprinted so many times that the text we read barely resembles the original anymore. But I’m referring to the initial draft put out into the world. First edition Bible with God signing copies at Bethlehem and Noble’s. Did God make it all up in one shot and didn’t feel like bothering with revisions? Was it still a work in progress, and the holy men bouncing ideas around just had a deadline to hit? Or maybe there is no God and existence is meaningless and we all die alone. Who knows?! All I know is, I’ve never written something good that didn’t have a shitty draft first.
Looking at this as a writer, I know that everything I have ever written, whether a blog like this, a chapter like the above, or even a tweet, goes through a rough draft, retinkering, and extensive notes before I consider it ready. Often, I’ll return to the drawing board completely for what’s called a page-1 rewrite. Either way, you have to ask what the process of writing that book initially must have been like. And I kind of wonder what those initial sparks were that never made it into the final book.
Comically, I like to imagine God hunched over his Macbook (his OS: Original Sin), pecking out stories and wracking his brain. “Oh fuck, how am I supposed to get them out of Egypt? Uhhh, plagues. Plagues should – no, no, then Pharaoh loses his arc. Maybe if he chases them out…” Every story I’ve ever written has a companion document called the “Series Bible” that covers the history, the themes, and all the intimate background details that you need to make a story feel lived-in and true. Then again, my series Bibles never end as living documents, but as collections of outdated ideas and moot points next to the world I finally create. So maybe it’s not so different at all.
These are obviously ridiculous flights of fancy. God would never use a laptop. He’s a desktop kind of guy. But when a writer has no choice but to play God to achieve their task, how can you not equate the two? I believe in a higher power of some kind, something too great to fully understand, but if you look at it as a writer, someone who created the raw material and let the characters write themselves, sometimes clearing the board and recasting for a new season here and there,… I mean, am I crazy? I wonder, if there is an almighty, if that is the reason why so much is mysterious. Things considered standard aren’t even part of our programming. We are instead left to figure it out for ourselves. Maybe he just didn’t do enough research before writing his first draft.
Or maybe God doesn’t exist and it was just a bunch of dudes in a writer’s room (and you know it was guys – no affirmative action or equal opportunity in effect back then), tossing a plush dreidel back and forth as they spitball ideas based on “history” for their educational series. I wonder how long it took them to write. To settle on the right stories and edits. I wonder if they knew it would be edited by kings and monarchies over centuries, so it didn’t matter how final a draft it was. It was final enough. I wonder if we need to update it again to sync with our current values, and who would be up to such a task. Who can be trusted, when everyone has an agenda they are all too willing to share?
In seriousness, I know the Bible took a long time to write and faced multiple rewrites that were more difficult than we can imagine with how different the politics of religion were back then. But for each piece, there must have been a first draft. And for each first draft, I can’t help wondering how well it was written. Could even the most famous and holy of texts have started with the same shitty prose and undeveloped characters that the rest of us peons write?
A rough draft is necessary. It’s where you figure out what works and what doesn’t. Where you first establish the illusion of a story, even though it’s merely a bunch of shapes on a page. Where you first assemble the nuts and bolts that are never again exposed, because they become human.
I guess I keep on this because I WANT to see that humanity, because if you can see beyond the bluster and “how it’s supposed to be”, then you can understand the purpose behind the work. Maybe we can see past the hypocrisies and semantics of what’s in the text and see the intent that goes beyond words and sentences.
And if they had a shot to rewrite it today, based on the effects of their work, how much they would change?