Writing is not easy and yet everyone I meet says, “I’d like to write a book.” Or they have an idea for a book or they always thought they’d write a book, etc. Usually what they mean is they like the “idea” of writing a book. The reality is just not as fun. Frankly, the only thing I find harder work than writing is parenting. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy the process or that I’m not passionate about it, I am. However, it is a craft that requires due diligence to use an overworked phrase.
A first draft of a paper is solely for the eyes of the writer. Reread that, please. Many students don’t understand that. Many writers don’t understand that. Our world has far too many first drafts. The sign in a window that has misspellings or the billboard beside the highway with egregious errors in huge letters. Or my all time favorite: close captioning that has more errors in it than a major league ballgame. Those writers didn’t glance over their drafts a second time, and they should have. For most, it’s not worth the extra work.
Only the writer should see a first draft so when a student turns in a first draft in class, it should technically be their second draft. A draft they’ve written, run spell check on, reread, corrected glaring errors on, and then submitted. Unfortunately, as a professor, I see second drafts that look like a twin of the first, a third that looks like the second, and so on. There is no purpose to turning in the same draft multiple times. It’s like submitting the same pie three times in a contest. It’s not going to taste any better the second or third time. As a writer, the student isn’t going to see any growth without putting in the hard work on all drafts.
Writing is about detail, essence. It’s about the minutiae. It’s mired in style and voice and structure. No one will get there in one draft. Shakespeare didn’t. Stephen King doesn’t. Certainly, a student writer won’t. No one expects you to. Just know that you have to put in the hard work to get to that point where the work exceeds your expectations and mine. That’s what you’re working towards. Keep that goal in sight and forge ahead.