On Writing First Drafts

Call me a traditionalist, but for a difficult first draft, it has to be paper. A pencil, perhaps a nice fountain pen. The creative part of writing, pinning down that first draft, is a tactile, sensory experience. There’s the resistance of graphite across the page, the sound of paper rustling, the concreteness of pages stacking up one on top of another. The wrong sensations can easily derail the process; paper that is too smooth, or doesn’t soak up ink well, or a pen that skips, or an eraser that is old and hard and smudges rather than wipes clean.

A first draft is when I don’t know what I’m going to write, haven’t yet pinned down the thoughts that have been skipping across my mind, given them body and gravitas and forced them to pose on the page. First drafts are about exploring the topic, organizing ideas, trying things out. It’s harder to delete something written down. It exists, even if I decide it no longer is needed. Pages in the recycling bin are a testament that my time has not been wholly wasted.

Paper breaks through writer’s block. With paper, if the hand is moving, then progress is being made. Writing in longhand slows down my thinking, allows me to craft sentences, put in more meaning than just the bare bones of the facts. Paper is where the poetry begins to dance. Paper is where my subconscious mind, which is way smarter than I am, finds its own voice.

1 Comment

  • Judy Gehm says:

    I agree …paper for first draft..find it hard..nearly impossible..to write without a yellow 8.5 x 11 pad ..ruled…using a black gel pen….G2 or pilot

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