It disappoints a great many people to learn that the best stuff doesn’t just fall out of their head and onto the page. Of course, great ideas come to you in the shower or right before you fall off the edge into dreamland, but it takes time to get those ideas to a place where others can use them.
Remember, you’re building a puzzle for someone else. You need to paint a picture in their head.
Novels take years to write. The perfect screenplay gets a dozen rewrites. All of the pages in this course took months to compile and sort out.
As legend tells it, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road took all of 12 days to write. Other accounts say it took him three weeks. Wanting to take a continuous flow, jazzy approach (the Beats were all about that jazz), Kerouac taped together rolls of tracing paper - 120 feet of it in all - to run through his typewriter - never needing to stop and change out the page.
Twelve days. Three weeks. Loads of booze and benzedrine. At the end of the book, the end of the 120 feet of paper, he had a draft. A first draft. It is a damn mess; I’ve seen it with my own eyes.“The Scroll” that was the first draft of On The Road periodically tours the country - setting up in museums and libraries for readers and fans to peruse.
Without the historical significance of the final draft of On The Road, someone would have likely thrown The Scroll into the garbage. The Scroll is, objectively, a total disaster.
Kerouac completed the first draft inside of three weeks sometime in 1951. The book would finally publish in 1958. For all of its flaws, On The Road remains one of the top-selling novels of all time.
The first draft took three weeks. The following drafts took years of work. You are a smart person with great ideas - that’s why you are here reading this page. The goal is to ensure the greatness of your idea translates to the people who need to hear it. Drafting makes your message clear as a bell.
Brilliant ideas don’t just fall out of your head and onto the page. If you’re lucky, no one will ever, ever read what you jotted down in your freewriting. No one should ever have to read your first draft. What you write in your early drafts is essential for you, but trash to everyone else.
Other times, your best stuff gets lost in the flotsam and needs to be plucked out in a moment of review. Sticking to a rigorous drafting process ensures the stuff you create is the best it can possibly be and presented in a way your audiences will love.
Drafting is the best and fastest way to improve your craft, develop your ideas, and make something worth seeing. I have worked with writers who have Masters in Fine Arts who never once learned how to write a second draft. I’d argue if they had learned to draft early on, they wouldn’t have needed to spend money on an MFA.
Think of all the money they could have saved.
Knowing there is a drafting process ahead lets your freewriting be even freer. Don't worry about how your stories or ideas look when the first hit the page; this entire process is about making them better.