So, you know how in some of your classes that involve any writing, your instructors will require several drafts of your papers before the final drafts are due? There’s actually a great reason behind this concept: it is designed so that you are less prone to procrastinate on the task at hand and so that you can actually have at least some picture of the final product in your head. Also, doing this is a preventative measure against going into a full-blown panic when the deadline is fast approaching and you have no idea what you’re doing with your paper. And like we’ve discussed before, panic (about 99% of the time) is the enemy.
“But isn’t that just an excuse to make us start writing sooner?” Well, I’m glad you asked (you probably asked, right? Right). See, in one sense, yes, making multiple drafts of your papers is, in a way, insurance to make sure you don’t indefinitely put off writing your papers. You can’t draft very effectively if you throw out several iterations of your paper in, say, the course of a day, so this encourages working early and often to craft a better paper. Drafting can do much more than get you writing earlier rather than later, however.
For those among us writers that have difficulty getting started on a paper, or find themselves running into a wall when they try to get into specifics of their paper, working with multiple drafts of your paper can work wonders for getting your creative juices flowing. For a barebones first draft, for example, it might work more in your favor to just get your ideas out on paper, so to speak, instead of going for super detailed specificity. Specificity is certainly important for a paper, but it is most important in the final drafting stages of the paper, when it is on the way to completion. If you are so stuck on going for specifics in a first draft that you cannot even get basic details out, then your paper likely is not going to exist at all. One way I have heard this described to me is to just get a whole bunch of word and idea vomit all over your paper (or word processor) and sift through all the ideas you have laid out in front of you. What works? What doesn’t? Which parts work well with other sections, and which ones stand apart and do not seem terribly relevant? This is a vital help that a first draft can give to you: if you can sort out your ideas in basic terms first, then you can get around to organizing them.
From there, drafting becomes a process of revision. Your ideas are available to you, and now you can begin sorting them and crafting them into a coherent piece of writing. The next key part is to begin formulating the body of your writing: this requires thought-out content, which you have gathered from your early first draft. You want to be deliberate about your organization and content in this phase of the drafting process. Write, write, write some more, and be in the habit of evaluating whether or not your points are coherent and are meshing together. Also, it does not hurt to keep a watch out for spelling and grammar issues, but do not make those such a priority that you become more focused on that than you are on making the content of your writing satisfactory. Save the polishing of these issues for your final drafts.
One other note of advice to consider is that if at any point during your writing and drafting process you find that you’ve hit another wall, you can always seek out someone to discuss your writing with, whether it is a friend, a classmate, a writing center tutor, or a professor. In drafting with your friends and classmates, you might find perspectives on your paper that you had not initially considered, and you may also find the same outcome by working with a tutor at the writing center as you work together through however far you are in your drafting process. Also, contrary to what you might think, the instructors at Marshall have been shown time and again to be more than willing to work with their students, so don’t be afraid to ask them for advice anywhere along your writing/drafting process.
Drafting can be an invaluable skill if you put it to work early on, and even if it does nothing but gets you to start on your writing sooner rather than later, then that is one step towards a less stressful, healthier writing life.