The constantly drafting mentality

February 25, 2014

The first blog I ever kept was updated every day. Each night, every night, I’d return home, pull out my computer, and stare at my screen until words materialized on the page. The strategy produced a lot of mediocre, mundane content and an occasional flash of something better. My mom loved it.

The second blog I’ve ever kept (you’re on it right now) is not updated every day. The posts are few and far between. At best I publish something new once a week, but more often than not it’s twice as long. Part of this is that I spend less time writing — I don’t sit down and force myself to write every night—but there’s another contributing factor: the constantly drafting mentality.

When I think about the internet writers I admire, I always imagine them having a huge collection of drafts. When they want to publish something new, these writers open up their collection, choose a piece that’s finely-aged, refine it to perfection, then publish it to wide acclaim. In their free moments, they funnel new ideas into this breeding ground and gradually massage old ideas into well-thought-out essays. The process is iterative, seamless, and easy.

Following in these writer’s footsteps, in my latest writing, I’ve adopted the constantly drafting mentality:

Every time I have an idea for something to write, I add it to my list. When I have time to write, I do things: (1) I go through my idea list and turn thoughts into a drafts; (2) I go through my drafts and refine them towards a “completed” product. When a draft is ready to publish, I publish it.

Unfortunately, with this strategy, the vast majority of things that I write never see the light of day. My draft list is not the oak cask that ages essays to perfection, it’s the early retirement home where they go to die. Yes, you guessed it, this hyper-effective strategy is an idolization-based figment of my imagination.

Drafting is an extremely effective writing strategy. Rarely is my first piece of writing the best incarnation of an idea I’m trying to convey. In fact, more often than not, it takes me more than one draft to figure out what the idea actually is. Just like building a company, constantly seeking and addressing feedback on writing can turn a wayward idea into a well thought out end product.

Constantly drafting has not proved to be an effective writing strategy. Just like a product, nothing I write is even close to finished — and it never will be. Creating a workflow around drafting  has pushed me towards an unreachable goal of perfection and stifled my output.

Draft carefully and consciously.

Are you one of my idols (or do you have super-human drafting ability and disagree with this concept)? Let me know on Twitter here.


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