Writing is Re-writing: Just get it outside yourself

As a college writing instructor, I found that one of the most difficult concepts for students to embrace is that writing is re-writing. None of us gets it right the first time. So many who claim they want to write either don’t want to put for the effort of re-writing or are driven by perfectionism and want their first drafts to be their final drafts.

That never happens.

As Anne Lamott says in her excellent and entertaining book on writing, Bird by Bird, in a chapter titled “Shitty First Drafts,” “All good writers write them.”

I like to think of the analogy of a potter spinning clay. The first draft is the act of throwing the clay onto the potter’s wheel. Just as the clay has to be extracted from its package to be turned into something meaningful and useful, the same is true of our words. We have to extract them from our mind – get them outside ourselves – before we can begin to shape them into something meaningful and useful.

While working on a first draft, just get it outside yourself. Dump the words on the page or screen the way a potter throws the clay on the wheel. Don’t worry about organization, sentence structure, word choice, or punctuation.

After the words are outside your busy brain, then and only then, can you do something with them.

Try it. Do a word dump. Just one page. Do it now…

Then re-work it
5 times
10 times
20 times
… or however many times it takes.