There is an epidemic sweeping through writing groups around the globe. Day after day writers drag their weary fingers and bleary eyes into my office and beg for a cure.
The symptoms they describe are all too familiar:
~ Writers block
~ Inability to create a coherent sentence
~ Problems with usually simple tasks such as spelling
Sometimes the disease is only in its early stages and writers have a few pages they have managed to create but refuse to share out of embarrassment. Others in more severe distress claim that the blank page (or computer screen) is silently mocking them. They are sure they will never write again.
The diagnosis is not the commonly-called “writer’s block” as so many claim but rather the easily cured Roughdraftitis. Too often writers are in a hurry to capture their ideas in print or to finish a project. Often what they attempt to do in an effort to “save time” is to skip one or more steps in their personal writing process. Then they discover that rather than save time they are wasting it while struggling to write their rough draft.
The cure is simple. Allow your personal writing process to work through at its own pace. Use time to your advantage and give your brain the space and time it needs to work its magic. Most important of all, give yourself permission to write a really crappy rough draft.
Who says that a rough draft has to be something wonderful readable? Often times the reason writers struggle with their rough draft is that they are not really writing a rough draft. They have a vision in their head of the perfect final draft they hope to create and for some reason they expect that final draft to be born whole and wonderful at the tips of their fingers. Silly writer, beautiful final drafts are not made from whole cloth but are rather cut, stitched and patched together from the good bits of quite imperfect rough drafts. Beautifully crafted writing takes time and it takes more than one draft to create.
The next time you find yourself struggling with Roughdraftitis take the following prescription:
~ Sit your butt in a chair and start writing. Do not leave your chair until the rough draft is complete.
~ Do not reread or revise as you write.
~ Do not worry about spelling, grammar, or the perfect word choice.
~ Do not worry about organization or detail.
~ Concentrate on filling a certain number of pages or getting down a certain number of ideas or thoughts. When you have accomplished this goal then set your newly created rough draft aside and consider yourself cured.
Once you let go of that vision of the perfect rough draft (a beast more rare than the purple polka-dotted unicorn) you are on the path to that much more accessible quarry — the perfect final draft. Just remember to bag your prize you must give yourself, and your brain, time to work through the drafts necessary to sort out all those problems with organization and development as well as surface errors such as grammar and spelling that you ignored while writing the original draft.
Writing a really ugly rough draft is a wonderfully freeing experience and can often be accomplished in an amazingly short amount of time. Soon you will wonder why you ever wasted time contemplating the perfect action verb or adjective. Once you have that rough draft, no matter how rough it is, you are on your way. It is much easier to craft and shape something existing into your vision than it is to create that vision on a blank page. Sometimes a really ugly draft can be a beautiful thing.