Does the First Draft of Your Writing Have to be Bad?

First Draft WritingI must be a bad writer, because very often my first drafts are pretty good. And pretty close to what the final product ultimately looks like.

Maybe my standards are low. Maybe I’m not the writer I think I am. Maybe I’m not a very good editor.

Hemingway famously said, “The first draft of anything is [crap].” (Yes, I just edited Hemingway, but I try to keep this safe for work.)

I’ve always written this way. Back in 7th grade I had an English class where we would spend the whole week writing an essay. The prescribed process went like this:

  • Monday: Brainstorming
  • Tuesday: Outline
  • Wednesday: Rough Draft
  • Thursday: Revised Draft
  • Friday: Final Draft

Inevitably I would have the whole thing written by Tuesday at the latest and I would spend the rest of the week creating all those other steps the teacher required—retrofitted outlines and fake rough drafts complete with fake scratch-outs, etc.

When I write, I usually edit as I go, which is against the advice of every expert I’ve ever heard. You’re just supposed to get it all out there—write yourself silly, in the words of a Copyblogger post today.

And I think that’s good advice, especially for people who are stuck and can’t get the words out. But in the end I’ve always said that the “right” writing process is the one that works for you—and for better or for worse, this is the one that works for me.

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