First Drafts

[Previously published on Facebook 2015-05-21.] I prefer writing first drafts (or complete rewrites) using a pen. There are too many distractions on the computer: email notifications, the spell checker, hitting the wrong key on the keyboard (an increasing issue over recent years). I find writing the first draft hard. It’s easier to edit it later once the ideas are on the page. The characters, places and situations develop in my mind, frothing, fermenting and expanding until they fill up inside my head and it seems like there’s no room for anything else. Writing these ideas down is like a mental trepanning. It’s tough trying to drill through but once the flow starts it builds up momentum and becomes faster. Interruptions break that flow and trip the momentum. So I switch off the computer, leave the answerphone on, select an album on my mp3 player and wedge in the ear plugs.

My handwriting is verging on illegible to most people. In my haste to write down the ideas before they evaporate I miss out small words, drop syllables, or spell phonetically, but it’s enough to trap the ideas on the page before they vanish, and I can later type them up on the computer. Once the first draft is done, then the editing will smooth out the rough edges.

So if I don’t seem to be around online or I’m not answering the phone, don’t take it personally. I’m just writing or thinking. It’s not you I’m avoiding, it’s the Person from Porlock.