18 Nov 2017

I once asked my dad over email how to improve my the potency of my words and thoughts. His reply came back as one word:


Good writing does not emerge spontaneously; it comes as one practices writing. A “draft” is a pass of writing a particular work. It’s like sketching in art: when an artist starts a painting, they usually start with a rough sketch outlining where the figures will be, what the landscape will be like, etc. These sketches are composed of many lines: each coming closer to their final position.

Rearing Horse by Leonardo da Vinci

When I draft, I start out with a few different freewrites. I usually start with a stream of consciousness to get my ideas out on paper and to sort of flesh out what I actually want to talk about. Then I will beat out a very rough draft. After this initial draft, I usually will have a good idea of how I want to treat the subject matter. I will do things like read my paper aloud to hear how it flows, check for grammatical inconsistencies, look for more concise phrases that convey my ideas more clearly. Occasionally I will decide that I need to change how I structure my argument entirely. In these situations I will often do a complete rewrite.

I usually use something akin to semantic versioning—the first version number of my draft indicates the major write of the paper, (e.g. 0.0.1 for the rough draft, 1.0.0 for the first full draft after the rough draft, 2.0.0 for the next full rewrite, etc.) the second number might indicate significant changes in the text, but not complete structural changes, and the third number indicates minor changes, such as spelling and grammar errors.

I don’t follow this system too rigorously; it’s just a kind of fun thing I use to keep track of my drafts. My brain is messy some times, and I’m okay with that.