Free the Draft! An Attempt to Liberate my Writing Routine (with Bonus Baby Bunny Interlude)

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

I feel as if I’m re-learning how to write. Or maybe finally learning how to write. Or maybe that’s what it is to be a writer–to cycle through the re-learning how to do this art for every project you have, every major life change, every significant emotional shift or growth or loss you experience.

When I began writing my memoir Terrible Daughter, about how I became estranged from my parents, I was married, had two dogs, lived in the heart of Boston, and spent most of the winter at a small apartment in Florida. In the years since then, I got divorced, my dog died, my ex kept the other dog–the loss of which I still feel keenly–had to leave my home in Boston, sold the Florida place, and moved to Maryland. And I earned an MFA.

I’ve done a great deal of work since then as a writer and editor. But this memoir has been slow going, mainly because of these major changes in my life, both necessary and devastating. I am not in the same emotional place as I was when I began this book. I’m not even in the same literal place.

________________ baby bunny interlude_______________

I call her Scamper

Can we just take a moment to admire this tiny baby bunny? Bunnies scamper all over the VCCA campus. I love them. They want me to go away. This tiny one was just hanging out around dusk, looking around, chewing on something. Cuteness!!


Now that I’m rewriting the draft for the second time, I’m finding I have to write more to get what the story needs. Not that the story needs to be longer, but I need to write the parts with which I’m struggling in meandering, messy, overwritten ways. I must let the act of writing itself reveal to me what the key memories and scenes are. Where the energy is. The life, the conflicts, the heart, the threads, the desire, the shame.

This is not my favorite way to write. I like to take my time and create drafts that are readable and capture something important. Writing to find what is important feels strange to me. I’m really, really uncomfortable with it. The perfectionist in me writhes and moans with the chaotic, mediocre language of messy drafting.

For spiritally-minded writers

Yeah, I know all about the “shitty draft” (yuck) as Anne Lamott says, and the “vomit draft” (yuck) as Marion Roach Smith says. Check them out, they have great advice for writers. And they’re right and stuff! I just don’t want to do it. But I am doing it. And I need a different phrase. I don’t like those descriptors.

For practical get-it-done writers

The chaotic draft? The nebulous draft? How about something liberating. The free draft maybe? The free-written draft? The point is to not worry about craft. It should feel liberating, I think. The free draft. That might do it for me.

Because language matters. I could “shit” or “vomit” out a draft (yuck sorry) but I’d rather just free the draft. Let it out! Spill it all onto the page in all its chaotic glory! Let the life of the language reveal itself rather than overthinking and forcing structure onto something that doesn’t yet know what it wants to be.

You guys, when I started writing this I had no idea what I was going to write about. My subconscious has my back, though. Something always comes out.

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Writer and Editor. Pianist and singer. Feminist and proponent of Jean-Claude Van Damme movies. I don't get it either. I wish I could have dinner with Marie Curie.

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