A place for rough drafts

The other day I hand-wrote a letter to my friend Angie — something I haven’t done in far too long — because I was craving that mental-motor connection, and because when I write to her, it’s very free-form. Whatever I’m thinking and feeling gets laid out on the page. It does not get evaluated. It does not get analyzed. It does not get polished.

“Where is the place for rough drafts in life anymore?” I asked my friend. The irony of course being that my letter to her was one such place.

With Instagram and Facebook showing constant highlight reels of people’s lives — and as a writer struggling to make her way through a competitive and fast-evolving publishing landscape — it often feels like every word I write and every photo I take has to be perfect.

But perfection isn’t attainable. And perfect is the enemy of good.

Especially here. Sometimes I forget that this is just a blog. This can be a space for rough drafts. People come here looking for genuineness, not perfection.

(I hope.)

It’s been a busy, stressful summer, and I’m not sure that autumn is going to be too different. But I want to feel differently about it. I want to feel energized by the activity, instead of drained. I want to be inspired instead of deflated. I want to be productive instead of overwhelmed.

Most importantly, I want to give myself permission to be imperfect. To revel in my rough drafts. Because rough drafts are practice. And practice may not make perfect, but it does make better.


  1. In my experience, everything is a rough draft until you hit a deadline. Then, it’s a finished product.

    I have a friend who makes the most delicious pies, both sweet and savory. Her attitude is, it’s just pie. It’s not meant to be perfect, it’s meant to be eaten. I try to keep that in mind these days.

  2. The web is absolutely the place for the rough draft. I remember in the early days some people used to put “This site is under construction” signs on their sites, and somebody pointed out that this was silly because every site on the web is “under construction” all the time,

    In my mind, books are final (by which I mean books on paper — e-books are always updatable, too). I publish my writing on the web, but it’s always subject to a little more polishing until it’s on paper. Then it’s set.

    I just read an interesting piece at The New Yorker called “A Memoir Is Not a Status Update”: http://tinyurl.com/ndn4fyr. It makes some good points.

    1. Anthony-
      Thanks for sharing that link! I’ve read a few Dani Shapiro pieces before and loved them; this was no exception. :)

  3. letting yourself create a truly rough draft and write by hand both feel so good! it’s therapeutic. that’s why i feel the need to journal.

    also, “Most importantly, I want to give myself permission to be imperfect. ” yes girl, allowing ourselves to be imperfect is just about the kindest thing we can do for ourselves.

    1. Tria-
      You’re partly an inspiration for me on this! Whenever I see “mediocrity” at the top of your blog, I think, “Hey, this stuff isn’t mediocre!” And then I realize: that’s the whole point. She’s giving herself that permission, and that’s what allows her to exceed it!

  4. Three things:

    1. I LOVE writing letters by hand. Emails and texts are great, but there’s something so much more personal about actually sitting down with paper and pen. It’s calming, in a way.

    2. Agreed 100% about granting ourselves permission to be imperfect. It’s important and so necessary. The freedom that comes with rough drafts is often (for me, anyway) what’s most inspiring.

    3. I hope your autumn is, if not less stressful, at least filled with lovely things, too!

    1. 1. Agreed. Isn’t it weird that future generations may not understand that joy?

      2. I think this is why I don’t get that “first draft glow” that so many writers seem to feel. Hopefully I can work on that that moving forward…

      3. Thank you!

  5. This sounds so unlike you, Kristan. I’ve rarely heard you sound stressed and it came through in your post. I hope you do find more inspiration and energizing tasks this autumn. I’m so very curious — is any of this tied to revisions on your novel or working with an agent? Or is it more wedding plans and life in general? (Boy, am I nosy!)

    1. Thanks for your concern and well wishes, Juliann. :)

      I’m feeling pretty good now, but I’m not surprised to hear that traces of my recent stress might have seeped into my words. It’s definitely *not* due to working with my agent, because Tina is wonderful. In fact, having her in my corner is a source of strength and comfort to me. But in a more general sense, yes, the industry stresses me out sometimes, and wedding planning certainly hasn’t helped.

      But after cutting myself some slack, reading a few good books, and spending a weekend with old college buddies in Pittsburgh (which I may blog about soon), I’m reenergized and ready to jump back into action!

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