In Praise of First Drafts


In terms of catharsis, nothing beats a first draft. 

That’s where you get to yell at everybody, cry your eyes out, sling accusations willy-nilly, and bring up every stored-away-for-the-right-moment injury that happened (or maybe actually didn’t) throughout your lifetime. 

Or, if you’re holding learned grudges, maybe the inciting incident didn’t even happen in your lifetime. Maybe it’s cherished through generations like a family heirloom because it ignites passions against the inheritors of the other side’s equally mummified truths. 

First drafts are for not giving a good mound of steaming feces.

Writing a memoir and hating on your parents? 

Slather your first draft with every single thing they (as products of their own parents) did wrong. Try to get it all in those pages: how your parents hurt you, ignored you, neglected you, restricted you, babied you too much. And be sure to include how it twisted you into the person who made mistakes that someone without such treatment wouldn’t have done. 

Writing an expose of your industry?

Be sure to include every name of every person and every company even tangentially involved. List their transgressions, failures, faults, ignorance, bullying, stealing, manipulations. 

Writing a book about relationships based on your years of experience as a psychotherapist?

Dig into that treasure trove of unexpressed judgments over how people get involved with shady partners, try to put themselves in their graves with addictions, can’t seem to step outside themselves to see the other side or try a new solution, circle round and round the same old trite themes or emotions.

Writing a history of a movement?

Rail away at the stupid machinations of government or controlling groups that made the movement necessary, the egoistic leaders and their manipulations of power, the abuses of one person toward another, the treachery or laziness of members, the spinelessness in the face of assault. 

Your first draft is liberating—use it to capture your raw emotions. In later drafts you can tone down those emotions, so the jewel of your message comes through and lands on bookstore shelves.

Sabriga Turgon, Certified Ghostwriter