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Cure for First Draft Allergies

Posted on February 11, 2019

Draft first writing I don’t like. Can you understand me? Obviously not, unless you have some reading power from Super Why. Maybe that was too much of a stretch for an example, but it highlights the importance of a first draft. The misconception about first drafts is that it has to be perfect, which is why people are hesitant to write one. That is evidently not true, because why would it be called a draft then? As defined by Google, a draft is “a preliminary version of a piece of writing”. I would like to change it a little bit; the final version of my writing is always subject to criticism and revision. Therefore, the final piece is also called the final draft because we are always improving our writing.

 

Moreover, Lamott’s “Shitty First Draft” reiterates that a first draft is usually ugly. In the article, he states, “The whole thing would be so long and incoherent and hideous…”, and it shows that even professional writers don’t always have good writing in the beginning. In fact, he confirms that most writers don’t know what they’re doing until they finish writing and as a writer myself, I can attest to that. When I write, I usually start with writer’s block, but after arguing with myself about what to write, ideas start flowing in, and the keyboard starts clicking away. However, after reading what I’ve written, I would’ve never thought I would write that. Writing in my opinion, is a paradox. You have to spontaneously think of ideas, while trying to logically incorporate all of those ideas into a comprehensible argument. It’s like Lego blocks; you have so many blocks to work with to shape in this one thing, but you can also knock it down and reassemble the pieces to make something new. In contrast, the other article, Murray’s “The Maker’s Eye”, is written in a more informative fashion, thus lacking appeal to the audience, but still makes the same claim as the former: first drafts are essential. I love the seven elements in writing that Murray discusses in the article. I agree with subject a lot, because this is what writers usually struggle with, subtly, Myself included, I think that we have things to write about, but we don’t clearly identify something that we are writing, and we sometimes go astray from the topic. A little bit is tolerable, but continuously going off-topic can lead to disastrous effects, because you can write five pages of what my high school teacher called “fluff”, but not get your point across to the audience. It is also interesting to note that in both articles, there’s not much mentioned about watching over grammar or mechanics in a first draft. I think this is because the first draft is based more on content, and although grammar and mechanics is crucial for the audience to understand your argument, it can sometimes limit the content and quality of your writing because you’re too obsessed with making the writing coherent by adding an extra comma or two (not undermining the importance of commas).

 

Some of the tips I have for writing a good piece were briefly mentioned previously. Another tip I have is to keep writing even when you start to have writer’s block or just blank out. Stopping in the middle of an essay can be good, but in my opinion, sometimes it leads to me having good ideas but then forgetting them, which is why before I stop writing, I would write down any notes or ideas I had so I will remember them when I continue writing later. Also, having a clear subject and being concise in your writing is important because it helps you stay on track. Especially in personal narratives, writers tend to ramble on and give their entire life story in their essay without usually addressing the prompt of what they learned from the experience they were describing. Usually there is a word or page limit, but in the case that there isn’t, I like to set one myself so at least I have a broad estimate of how much to write and then I can add or remove some things from my essay. The last tip I have, which pertains mostly to research essays, but can expand to any type of argumentative work, is to build your point effectively. A lot of people do that on the fly, and a lot of times, they end up regurgitating evidence and statistics but not analyzing it and integrating it to the claim. In a reader’s perspective, I didn’t opt in to read your essay to see how good you were at finding things from a search engine; I want to understand your unique view and evidence is used just to validate that view.

 

Ultimately, every writer’s style may vary, but if you look closely, every good writer’s fundamentals are the same. We always appreciate the final edition of their works, but we never get the opportunity to see and appreciate the writer’s first draft. Heck, even the writer itself sometimes thinks that their first draft is ugly, and they wouldn’t show it to anyone. However, without a first draft, we make more mistakes that we can’t catch, so maybe we should reconsider our beliefs towards first drafts. They are just like cherry-flavored cough syrup; it looks and tastes bad, but unarguably helps us.

Comments

  1. joalam

    Hi Johnson,
    You made some really strong points regarding the writing process. I really liked your comparisons especially the one about the lego, and how important it is to be concise. In addition, I agree with you on that fact that even if someone has writer’s block they should keep on writing. I find myself doing that when writing and I can attest to the fact that it works for me most of the time. You had some really good tips that I will definitely consider when writing!

  2. Kristina Lucenko

    Nice post, Johnson — I like your comment that “writing is a paradox.” I think that is true when we think that we have to write everything in one draft. How can we be creative and spontaneous AND present our ideas with sufficient detail AND arrange our paragraphs so that readers can easily follow our narrative/argument AND make sure the spelling and punctuation and syntax is perfect? Well it’s impossible to do all of this in a single draft, which is why it’s important to understand the process of writing and also to understand your patterns and habits as a writer. Then you can move around resistance and fear and anxiety when it pops up…

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