One of my classmates said that she sat down to write an eight page paper for her rhetoric class. After a grueling couple of hours, she sat back to see what she had accomplished: a paragraph!
She said to me, “I told myself something had to be wrong. It shouldn’t take that long. What’s wrong with me?”
After a brief Q & A period, I figured it out. She was self-editing while writing her rough draft.
On the surface, this seems harmless. Why go back and correct that misspelled word when you can correct it as soon as you see it? Because, as you are re-reading and revising, you are also telling yourself “no”. “No, that’s the wrong word. No, this doesn’t make sense. No, that’s a fragment.”
When you tell yourself “no” too often, you will begin to lose faith in your abilities as a writer. You will become disheartened and lose your flow. And nothing wards off our beloved muse like disheartened writing and loss of flow!
I think that the problem isn’t with the writer, though. I don’t think for a second that it is my classmate’s fault that she does this. I think she has been conditioned to do it by strict deadlines and the strange University pre-final days that seem to yield few hours.
I also think it is the lifestyle that we have adopted. We like things to be finished rather than perfected. In having this mindset in regards to our writing, we begin to edit the rough drafts. We start telling ourselves “no” during the creation process, and our writing suffers.
In order to write well and to write creatively (and here I am not talking about unicorns and big red dogs; I mean writing in a way that is unique to the writer), we must tell ourselves “yes” —- and often. “Yes, house elves are plausible. Yes, I can use that word this way. Yes, I can write. I know what I”m doing, I just need to give myself credit.”
So, I challenge you not to revise your rough draft as you write. I challenge you to finish it. Most importantly, I challenge you to tell yourself “yes” more often than not.