Learn the Power of Focused Drafting

I’m always looking for new writing tools. Recently, I was introduced to Rough Draft. This is an app for Macs and iOS devices. You can try it for free.

Train Yourself to Draft Productively

The purpose of the app, as the name suggests, is to help writers draft. I’m attracted to Rough Draft because of its philosophy. Good drafting focuses on the creation of text—that’s all. When writers do a mediocre job drafting, it’s usually because they slip into revision or editing. This is a mistake. Slipping into a different mode squanders time and energy.

Rough draft keeps writers in the drafting mode. It does this by training the writer not to make changes. If the writer attempts to go back and alter text, the app puts uses a strikethrough instead. Hitting the backspace key simply extends the strikethrough. (The exception is typos. You have a couple of seconds to correct typos without the strikethrough dynamic.)

My Experience with Rough Draft

At first, writing with the app is disorienting. Most of us have spent years fixing mistakes as we type. I was a little peeved when the app wouldn’t let me change a few words. Still, I knew why it was happening. The app was doing exactly what it was meant to do. It was pushing me away from the bad habit of correcting as I went. It was reinforcing the skill of dedicated drafting. The longer I worked with the app, the more inclined I became to focus on the next word instead of the one I’d just typed.

The picture shows a sample of me typing and altering some text. You can see the strikethrough where I tried to change some words. What you can’t see are a couple of typos that I immediately fixed. As I mentioned above, the app will let you change the typos without altering text. 

I admire what the developers accomplished with Rough Draft. Many writers know how important it is to stay in the right frame of mind when drafting, but still struggle to do it. This app can train you to stay focused. If you haven’t developed this skill, I highly recommend doing so. It’s one of the most valuable techniques I’ve learned.

The app also lets users set target word counts, use writing prompts, or change the appearance of the text.

You can download the app for free. It has also has paid full version with more features. If you try it out, please let me know! 

Progress 5/24/16

Do you have a favorite stage in the writing process?

If you’re not familiar with breaking the process into stages, it might help to think of writing as prewriting, drafting, revision, and editing.

My favorite is drafting. I love to see the pages fill with words. I love to stretch for my target word count each day. I love exploring my topic with the freedom that drafting offers, knowing that I’m not yet committed to what I write.

If drafting is my favorite stage, revision is the stage I like the least. This has been reinforced recently, as I have made slow progress during the revision process with my book.

Revision stretches me more than any of the other stages. Something about the act of questioning what I’ve drafted sends me into a place of deep self doubt. It’s interesting, because I feel very confident in each of the other stages, but the need to analyze my draft seems like something I could do endlessly. I struggle to be balanced—to honestly assess the value of what I’ve written, without fiddling with it for too long. 

I’m resolved not to spend too much more time in my revision process. It’s been said before that a writer never really finishes, they just stop messing with their project. I can certainly see how that will be the case with this book.



The Moment You Become a Real Writer

The Inciting Event

Have you had your Harajuku moment as a writer?

Author Tim Ferriss describes an incident when his friend was shopping for clothes and lost his cool. While looking for clothing in a Japanese city, Ferriss’s friend became despondent because none of the clothes he wanted were available in his size. The episode sparked the friend to finally lose the weight that he’d been fighting for a long time. 

Ferriss uses the term Harajuku moment to refer to a specific point in time in which an individual feels overwhelmingly convinced that something needs to happen. The moment is a tipping point. The individual becomes a different person as a result, with an altered attitude and approach. I believe that the principle of a Harajuku moment is often crucial in the formation of a writer. 

The Curse of the Legitimate Excuse

Many of us spend months or years talking about how we intend to write. We say we want to become a writer, but we don't take the necessary steps. I have known so many people who fell into this category; they talked and talked about how they wanted to write more. They shared their ideas for a novel or inspiration for poetry. And yet, the vast majority of these people never take action. They never actually do what’s necessary to become a writer. 

My Harajuku Moment

I've been this person myself. I even earned college degrees related to writing technique and the teaching of writing, but then I became a virtuoso of excuses for why I couldn’t write regularly. It was ridiculous. Yet, I allowed myself to spin these excuses for years. 

My own Harajuku moment happened when I considered how much I could have written if I’d stopped making excuses. I realized that during those years, if I’d simply written a few hundred words every day, I could have completed several novels. The revelation hit me: if I’d just sacrificed a few things to write, I could have penned my own version of Harry Potter. I knew that I’d been legitimately busy. Family, work, professional education, financial woes—all of these things took up time and energy over the years. However, when I considered that in spite of my obligations, I’d spent thousands of hours doing other things to relax, I realized that I was a big liar. Somehow, even though I’d sworn that I had no time to write, I’d still found time to watch Netflix, play games on my phone, and sleep in. This really got to me. 

In a single moment, I was struck by the truth that if writing was truly important to me, I would find time to do it. It’s like Jim Rohn says: “If you really want to do something, you'll find a way; if you don’t, you'll find an excuse." That's a great way to think about the Harajuku moment: it's being confronted with the knowledge that our situation could be much different. It can only be different, however, if we take action. 

In Which I Curse You

What it took for me to change is the same thing that I wish upon you: a Harajuku moment. If you are serious about becoming be a writer, but you haven't taken action to insure that it will become a consistent part of your life, then I hope you experience a dramatic episode of truthful reckoning. I don't say this lightly. I know that most people who want to write have good reasons if they fail. But if the act writing is truly important to you—if it offers you self discovery, the power of expression, the ability to think clearly, or the ability to help others—then I want you to reach a state of existential discomfort that will push you to become a writer. 

It’s much, much better to be filled with resolve than to be filled with regret. If writing is important to you, I hope you will take the steps to make it a part of your life. If that Harajuku moment is necessary, I wish it upon you.