Confessions of a First-Drafter
© 2001 Angela Giles Klocke
Hi, my name is Angela and I am a first-drafter. Yes, thank you for the applause and for not booing me for using the same line so may of us often use when confessing to a habit or problem. Or is this a problem? I am not sure of all of its blessings yet, but I am sure part of this is a problem.
First, what is a first-drafter?
When you sit down and write an article that ends and is complete without further need of editing, besides perhaps a misspelling here or there, you could be a first-drafter. While some writers write and rewrite and rewrite again, a first-drafter writes it and is done with it. We don't often look back. It's written, read over and either submitted without much delay by e-mail, or printed and quickly sealed in an envelope.
Sounds nice, doesn't it? The problem with being a first-drafter is we rush. Or, we are perfectionists as we go.
The Rusher is used to tight deadlines, so they write fast and furious, only sometimes to later find out they left out some vital important parts. This isn't always the case, but when it is, it can be scary. The Rusher has many times become one because they were reporters at some time in their life.
The Perfectionist cannot make it through a whole sentence if they make one simple mistake. The need to have a sentence read perfectly almost reaches obsession. In fact, many first-draft perfectionists can take twice as long to complete that first draft as compulsive rewriters do. When typing along and one simple misspelling is made, the perfectionist must, must, must go back and correct the spelling. It is often advised to ignore errors when in the heat of writing, but the perfectionist cannot do this.
I happen to fall into both of these categories. My background as a small-town newspaper reporter taught me how to write well and quickly. But it also instilled in me a need to make it right the first time. And to make it right the first time required fixing errors along the way. How does this affect me now?
It's a blessing sometimes because I can write something and be done with it. Other times, though, such as when I am writing on my book, I am hindered by the need to make it right the first time through. Stopping to correct a misspelled word or weak sounding sentence causes me to lose the momentum that was building for the scene I was writing. However, no matter what I try to avoid this, I am not able to. It is in me and does not seem to want to leave.
What can you do if you are a first-drafter?
First, just accept it. If you are one, you are one, plain and simple. Since I don't know how to help myself with this "problem", I'm not sure how to tell you what else to do but accept it. Sure, you can try to get out of it or pretend like this isn't one of your own afflictions, but denial will get you no where. Just admit it and move on.
One piece of advice handed to me once was if you are able to turn your computer monitor to a point where you can't really see the screen, do that and then type away. Type and type until you've run out of something to say or run out of time. Then, hit Save and close the document. Don't read it or even glance over it. Doing so will only send you into a frenzy of need to clean it up right then and there. Don't. Save that for an editing day. For now, just leave it be.
There. Simple enough, right?
Yes, it's really great advice. Turning down the screen brightness to where you can't see the mistakes your flying fingers make is great for many, but it didn't work for me. I couldn't handle it. So, I do have a problem, but I'm here admitting it and accepting it. I might not be able to change, but you can...if you want. Otherwise, join me and we'll first-draft our way all the way to the best-seller's list.
© 2001 Angela Giles Klocke
Angela is the owner of Klocke Publishing, the site that publishes several popular zines and newsletters. This article first appeared in the zine Inside the Mind of a Crazed Writer, available free by sending an e-mail to CrazedWriterfirstname.lastname@example.org.