A Quick Note about Shitty First Drafts
Today’s blog post is a note to my Project Straight Ink readers.
First and foremost, thank you. Thank you for reading this blog and hanging in there with me as I write my shitty first draft live on this blog. As some of you know, I’ve been trying to write the Straight, Inc. story for decades. I had no idea I was embarking on what seemed like an almost impossible task. So while this book has been incubating for 35 years, I’m just now embarking on yet another and final shitty first draft.
A SHITTY FIRST DRAFT?
Yup! If you are a writer or hang out with writers you know about ‘shitty first drafts.’ No, I’m not insulting my work, I’m just giving myself permission to get the words on paper (well in this case, on the internet) without worrying (too much) about perfection. There have been several reasons why it has taken me so long to write this story, not the least of them being my own perfectionism and fear of failing to properly tell the story.
Less than five years ago, I took some college writing classes and almost drove my professor nuts with my constant starting the story over. Once he said to me, “Kathy have you heard of furtherance?” I didn’t know what he was referring to. “It’s the advancement of the theme or story.” Oh. Well, that was embarrassing. Every writing assignment I handed in was another version of the beginning of the story. I couldn’t seem to get beyond ‘getting started.’ That’s when I got my first really good tip to help combat this problem.
My professor introduced me to the 1979 article written by a professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin, Betty S. Flowers. It was the single most empowering article I read regarding the writing process. In this article Flowers personifies the stages of writing. The first stage is the Madman, followed by the Architect, Carpenter, and Judge. I am currently in the Madman stage of writing.
Here is an excerpt from an article by Trevin Wax on another website describing the Madman phase of writing:
This is the brainstorming phase. You gather material related to the subject you will address, generating as many good ideas as you can. Don’t think of this as a rough draft, but more like a collection of thoughts. Do your research and write whatever you think.
So this is the stage I am in. I have a lot of research, interviews, videos and documents to sort through. But it was so overwhelming to sort through that I finally decided to try doing this online, especially after reading the blog and book How to Blog a Book, by Nina Amir.
The Surprising Benefits of Writing a Shitty First Draft Online.
There have been some surprising benefits to writing my shitty first draft online.
The first being the slight pressure to consistently produce something.
The second benefit of approaching my work this way is that I have finally found a way to break down my daunting task into bite sized pieces and keep track of all the little pieces (this is the first system that has worked for me).
The third and perhaps the most motivating benefit to attempting the writing process in this way, is the great encouragement and feedback that you, the readers, have been providing me. I love reading comments, and emails from you. When the facts are verified by personal eyewitnesses I feel all the more confident in what I am writing and why I am writing it. I have also gotten invaluable feedback and personal stories in addition to the facts that I have posted here, which will add tremendously to the final version of the story.
And finally, since I’m basically organizing my materials online, once I write my final version of the book, this blog will become a document and media library of sorts. Readers will be able to come to the blog to see the documentation and videos, etc. that preceded the story. In other words, once I’ve written the book, I will already have a blog with additional resources for readers of the book.
Thank you again!
Without your encouragement and your demonstration of a desire to read and contribute to the stories about Straight, Inc., its predecessors and spin-offs, this book may have been forever stuck in its beginning phases. However, now, I foresee this book coming to life as well as many others that cover not only the problems in American social institutions, but also positive solutions.
Project Straight Ink’s first project focuses on the problems within the ‘Teen Program Industry,’ but in the future there will be other social institutional problems and solutions uncovered.
Thank you for your persistence and patience in your assistance with this book. It is truly appreciated.
P.S. There will be a couple of periods of time in March, 2016 when I will not be posting as consistently due to other obligations. Please know, this is only during the month of March and I will continue posting again toward the end of March.
 Flowers, Betty S. 1981. “Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge: Roles and the Writing Process.” Language Arts, Volume 58.