I've been asking people in our writing club about their writing anxieties. While there are comments about needing to learn about structure and grammar, there seems to be this feeling that they should be able to write perfectly in their first draft, starting at the introduction and working all the way down to the conclusion. This is a rather tricky thing to do and is eloquently addressed by Rachael Cayley in her blog Explorations of Style.
The following quote is from her second key principle of academic writing Committing to Extensive Revision:
"One reason for this resistance is that many writers believe their own first drafts to be uniquely flawed; in other words, they think the weakness of the first draft comes from their lack of writing skill rather than from the intrinsic weakness of any first draft. As a result, they have little faith in their ability to fix what ails their writing. I suggest a shift in perspective: rather than worrying that your writing requires an exceptional amount of revision, try thinking that all writing requires a great deal of revision."
This is why in the shut up and write sessions I enourage people to use the Inger Mewburn’s (aka the Thesis Whisper) 5 step plan to write 1000 words a day:
- Spend less time at your desk
- Remember the two hour rule
- Start in the middle
- Write as fast as you can, not as well as you can
- Leave it to rest, then re-write.