The old saying goes that “writing is rewriting,” an idea that’s very much true.
I was reminded of that recently when I posted something on Twitter and then about an hour later I thought of a better way I could have said that, a more elegant phrasing I could have used.
It wasn’t the first time that had happened. Twitter is very much as much “right now” as it is “write now,” a living and breathing representation of the idea that the news is the first draft of history. It’s the first draft of everything.
This most recent incident got me thinking about the way different drafts represent different parts of a writer’s personality and persona. While I would never really advocate for publishing *only* first drafts, if you have the chance to look at them I think you see a more unfiltered view into who the writer is and what they’re trying to say.
Those first drafts are rough, but they often contain a more visceral and powerful version of the point the writer is trying to make. It hasn’t been tweaked or edited. It hasn’t been adjusted when the writer wanted to find a better, more literary word than “stupid” to describe something or someone.
Again, more often than not it’s better for everyone that first drafts don’t show up very often. That so many of my own blog posts are first drafts (or close to it) is why going back through my archives is sometimes a painful process filled with “ugh, really?” moments as I wonder what I was thinking there.
Still, there’s a lot to be said for these first drafts. They may not represent *exactly* what I or another writer is trying to say, but it’s a window into my and others’ styles and how our minds work.
In fact, that’s more or less exactly what they are, at least in my own case. Those first drafts are what happens when the voices in my head take control of my fingers. Subsequent drafts are what happens when my brain comes in and does its thing, cleaning up some of the mess and trying to glue the broken vase back together.
If you’re a writer, what do you think? Are you proud of your first drafts or do you wish they would fall into a hole and not climb out? Do you ever revisit them?
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.