I don’t know anyone who can write a document without putting it through the rough draft process. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t write, minimally, two drafts before they call a document finished.
Who are the people who can write a document, a chapter, a paper perfectly the first time, seamlessly, flawlessly?
How do they do that?
I hate those people, wherever they are.
When I wrote my dissertation, I completed 17 full drafts of that damn thing before it was approved.
That doesn’t count the many drafts of the five chapters that came before the first full draft of that project.
There was so much that was crap before I even got to the first draft, that when I finally, FINALLY, birthed the approved, complete, finished, dissertation, I actually felt bad about it.
I subjected my committee to reading a lot of crap before the good stuff was produced. That’s what I felt bad about. But, that’s why they were my dissertation committee. Vetting the document was their job. They did their job, obviously, because I was able to finish the thing, and get it published.
Drafts are a critical building block in any writing project.
Anne Lamott says in her book, Bird By Bird, that writing rough drafts can be frustrating, but useful: We may write six pages of content, and discover that 5.5 of the pages are just crap — but the last half of the final page is golden. Good stuff.
You couldn’t have gotten there without going through the crap first, is her point. I often find myself having days just like that — but you know what? I’m discovering that the little gems that come out of the struggle are worth the effort.
I don’t think all of the writing I’m doing at the moment is crap; it sure looks and feels like it sometimes. The work of processing information, and structuring it so that it makes sense, is the thing. Processing what you know is what gives you, the writer, the fuel to drive the article you must write. Thing is, unless you’ve done this before, you don’t recognize it, and it can seem like some folks can just write seamlessly, without a struggle.
But they’ve ALREADY struggled, friends.
The messing around with information and documents behind the scenes — that’s what we (readers) don’t see when we pick up a book, or report. That is most likely why some writers can generate a rather clear report or document without much drafting involved.
So, yeah, I’m caught in a big rough draft frenzy. And, I am learning to love the struggle.
The struggle is generating a lot of good material.
Categories: The Writing Life
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