The Way I Write – Strategy

I’m definitely an acolyte of Anne Lamott’s “shitty drafts” strategy.  Generally before I write anything real, I have to take a moment (or a day) to scribble in my notebook, starting with the first things that comes to mind and rattling of whatever comes afterwards.  Usually, this draft truly is shitty.  I used to think those drafts were more valuable, more “pure,” because they had my first thoughts and weren’t bogged down by what came after.  Now, I realize that part of a writer’s duty to her reader is to scrape all the residual brain-gunk off a piece so that all that’s left is exactly what she wants to say.

Even when I’m writing something academic and non-creative, I almost always write a quick stream-of-thought about the topic, about the information I have and my perceptions on it.  Usually this is where I get my thesis and most of my main points, and from there I can draw up an outline and continue developing my ideas.  My creative writing could probably benefit from that same outline process, but I haven’t gotten to that point yet.  That would be a good thing for me to try in the near future!


Mary Gallagher

I'd like to be good at poetry, short stories, and creative nonfiction, but really I'm here to develop the skills to write about politics and world issues

3 thoughts to “The Way I Write – Strategy”

  1. Would you say you free write to obtain your thesis then continue to write or just write a whole bunch then from all of that “gunk” you decide what your main point is.

    I find myself just typing, and dabbling, and word vomiting everywhere with an intention in mind and then clean it up after.

  2. I think it’s interesting that you don’t use the free writing stuff for your more creative pieces because normally the idea of free writing just brings to mind creativity.
    It’s great that you can usually find a thesis and main ideas in your scribble of writing. I find that often most of the stuff I use ends up maybe making it into parts of my argument, but usually doesn’t turn into a thesis, so that’s pretty cool.
    Do you think about research and sources at all when you’re free writing? or do you free write after you’ve already done some primary research and have an idea of what’s out there? Or do you just kinda write stuff and figure that there’s probably some research out there that talks about similar ideas to your own?

  3. I may be the only person in the world who doesn’t free write prior to writing! I think I missed the message because my problem always comes from “where and how am I going to start this thing?” I may have to follow your lead on this one.

    I like your counter idea of what writing is all about. It isn’t about creating something, but rather, it is about taking what you already have and taking things out and adding things in that create an even better piece of writing. Interesting take on this!

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