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Creativity coach, writing and creative process instructor, speaker, author of Around the Writer's Block: Using Brain Science to Write the Way You Want (Penguin/Tarcher 2012) and Dancing in the Dragon's Den (Red Wheel Weiser), Teaching Artist at the Loft Literary Center.

Rescuing My “Early Drafts” Project from a Postponement Loop: Step 1 Pull a Rabbit Out of My Hat

In a previous post, I promised to reveal my writing process as I move my idea about “Early Drafts vs. Shitty First Drafts” out of a Postponement Loop into a finished piece. Here’s my messy first step in pulling this rabbit out of my hat.

In the past few weeks, I spent several nights exploring the idea before falling asleep and several swim sessions rehearsing phrases. Today, I set the timer for 20 minutes and created a cluster.

As you’ll see, below, this cluster is not as colorful, image-filled and neat as a mind-map. I might create a mind-map later, but when I’m first capturing ideas, clusters and freewrites are my go-to techniques.

To give you an idea of how this cluster evolved, I put numbers on the bubbles/circles in the order I wrote them. And since the combination of a small photo and my sometimes indecipherable handwriting makes it pretty close to impossible to read (even in a PDF), I’ve listed the contents of each bubble in order below the cluster itself.

  1.  Shitty 1st Draft
  2.  Lamott’s Positive Intentions and Benefits
  3.  Stop judgement
  4.  Reassure yourself writer/readers
  5.  All writers do this
  6.  Play with writing
  7.  Get a draft you can work with
  8.  Maybe unexpected insights
  9.  Freedom from judgement perfectionism
  10. Solves the ‘how to start’ problem
  11. Unanticipated Outcomes
  12. Phrase disrespects process
  13. Phrase “Shitty 1st Drafts” vs.
  14. Concept: Write something/anything
  15. Creates new problems
  16. Can identify self as writer (this is connected to #5)
  17. I can write, but all I write is shit
  18. I must be a shitty writer
  19. Misidentify self as bad writer
  20. Now what?
  21. Similar to freewriting
  22. So why not call it freewriting
  23. Piles of shitty drafts
  24. Acquire “bad” habits
  25. Difference between non-judgement/accepting and unfocused
  26. Great in First Insight stage (this is connected to #8 and #28)
  27. Get too attached to what you wrote
  28. Write “flabby” long, rambling drafts
  29. Okay in First Insight stage
  30. Harder to see what to keep and what to let go
  31. Create neural pathways for writing “flabby” drafts
  32. The more you repeat the behavior, the stronger the habit
  33. So write “flabby” sparingly – not a daily practice
  34. Concept doesn’t consider/distinguish stages of Creative Process
  35. What’s good in First Insight not good in Verification and vice versa
  36. Lamott describes First Insight (paragraph 4) and Illumination/Verification (parag 5-8)
  37. Doesn’t acknowledge evolution of writing process
  38. Embryo isn’t shitty because it’s awkward & underdeveloped
  39. Embryo draft concept reflects stages – time to grow/time to delete (gills)

Notice there are no complete sentences, context, examples or evidence. Just my raw ideas as they occurred to me. I haven’t decided yet if my next step will be to look for structure and transitions or freewrite an “embryo draft.” We’ll see how this unfolds. 

Please let me know in a comment how this reveal of my process helps you (or doesn’t).

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  1. Multiple Writing Projects: Avoiding Resistance Roadblocks on Route 3 | Bane of Your Resistance - February 14, 2019

    […] Shitty First Drafts in my next post or two. You can get an introduction or refresh your memory at Part 1 and Part […]


  2. Out of the Postponement Loop: Step 2 Writing from the Bubbles of an Idea | Bane of Your Resistance - September 14, 2018

    […] I posted the previous post in the Out of the Postponement Loop series, I didn’t know if my next step in rescuing my “Early Drafts” project would be to look at the […]


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