Anne Lamott’s piece “Shitty First Drafts” from Bird by Bird presents the notion that all writers are imperfect by nature; that all writers need to write a first draft to get the ideas flowing and to start the creative process. While I believe that there are some writers that use this process, I’ve never been fond of complete revision or the “word vomit” that occurs so often when one writes a “shitty first draft”. In fact, I have a different process for writing altogether that I’m sure other writers can relate to.

When I write, I choose to edit in-place as I type. Fundamentally, this goes against every professional writer’s advice. According to them, writing must come directly from the mind onto the page. Editing before one finishes merely delays the time from thought to written word and, they say, stifles one’s creativity. My style of writing works much differently. Where writers like Lamott might suggest that each “thought” in the first draft is a piece that can be moved, I tend to treat sentences as “building blocks” for my thoughts. As each sentence is edited to my liking, I have the flexibility during the revision phase to move entire sentences to where they might have more context, add new sentences where clarification is needed, or remove sentences where I’ve been verbose.

The revision phase is where most writers organize their word cloud of thoughts that they’ve written into coherent, nice sentences. The revision phase is where I organize my coherent sentences into nice, straightforward thoughts. In a way, my writing style is backwards from what Lamott and other writers might suggest. But what are the advantages in using this method versus using the method described by Lamott? For me, the advantages lie in the fact that at any time, I can read back my paper and it will sound coherent and complete. This helps my mind form sentences and more thoughts, which does not work as well when using the “word vomit” method.

All in all, writing style comes down to personal preference, in my opinion. If you’re unable to write based on the advice of professional writers, perhaps try a different method. It all comes down to the final product, and how one arrives there is generally of trivial importance. A coherent, complete, and excellent piece is seldom, if ever, heralded for its prewriting process. After all, J.K. Rowling isn’t famous because of how she writes, but because of what she writes.

Weekly reflections are part of the Virginia Tech Honors College First-Year Seminar curriculum. Each week, one or more articles are presented for reading and reflection. The weekly reflection can be guided by these articles, but is generally an unrestricted writing exercise bounded only by an upper limit of 500 words. These reflections are presented on Medium exactly as they were written and submitted each week.