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Every Draft Sucks

Posted on February 12, 2019

When I’m done writing something, I always think I wrote some kind of masterpiece. I spend about an hour trying to come up with something to write, visualize the whole piece in my head, and then translate my ideas into writing. Basically, it’s a foolproof plan. I’m so confident in my writing that I rarely even reread what I wrote. After submitting my essay, I always catch a minor spelling or grammar error. Nothing too bad. The grader probably wouldn’t care. Just to make sure I didn’t blemish my masterpiece anymore, I skim through it really quick. Before me was what seemed to be the ramblings of a lunatic, riddled with cryptic statements and baseless argument. I didn’t really care though, since I got the essay done and it was probably due in a few hours anyway.

The first time you do anything, you are bound to fail. The first time you rode a bicycle you probably fell. The first time you got into a pool you probably almost drowned. The same principle applies when you’re writing something as well. In “Shitty First Draft”, Lamott talks about the importance of writing a bad first draft from a writer’s perspective. The first draft is meant to be a dumping ground of ideas and inspiration for further thought. Lamott was ashamed of her own first drafts, but knew it was a necessary evil for the ultimately better final piece. I think of my first drafts in a similar way, though I’m not ashamed of any of my writing really. However, most of the first drafting which Lamott does on paper, I think most people do in their head, or at least I think I do. I just think of everything I want to write for long periods of time before even touching the paper. Writing it those initial ideas down just seems like a more productive method than what I usually do. Unlike Lamott, Donald Murray takes a more systematic approach to creating and editing the first draft in “The Maker’s Eye”. This consists of steps such as considering the audience or if there is an intended tone to the piece. Murray’s description of editing is tedious and repetitive, more like what’s implied by the definition of the word. From a student’s perspective, I feel like Murray offers the very “teacher” answer to editing. It’s pretty bland and formulaic but it does get the job done. What I found interesting was his idea that every draft is bad in one regard and there is always room for improvement, which is only restricted by the due date.

I’ve internalized a few things from the two readings. I think I really need to keep the audience in mind when I’m writing. On these blog posts, I’m just talking to anyone, so I don’t really pay attention to the way I’m conveying my thoughts. My essays will have a much more focused audience, usually, which I can cater to through my writing. I also think I should start writing down my ideas and free writing from those ideas. My current method of just hoping I remember the ideas I have can make me lose potentially good ideas to write about. I should also be thoroughly editing my first draft based on the specifications Murray makes. Usually, I find myself looking for grammar and spelling errors rather than the actual content of the essay. I think a tip for anyone writing their first draft is also to make sure it is unique and interesting in some kind of way. Whether it is a thought provoking anecdote or even just organization, there’s always something you can do to stand out.


  1. jesesposito

    I completely agree with your closing paragraph- it is super easy to get carried away and forget who you are actually writing for at that point. The audience is a crucial point when writing essays or any sort of piece. I also like your notion of making a paper stand out. Too often we get lost in just writing for a grade or for a class and forget to add some of our own creativity. Great analysis for both articles!

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