Drawer Time


Even as I share this writing rule, I am breaking it. Which is, of course, the artist’s prerogative.

Dr. Lenz strode before the class, his flashy flamingo dotted tie and Chuck’s winking at us mere undergrads as if to include us in the joke. The joke of the academician who finds everything witty and ironic, who sees the phallic subtext of all the snakes in all the grass, and even then knows that is also the joke.

He said:

Write the paper. Then put away the paper. For a day or more. Then come back to the paper to revise.

He called it Drawer Time. You know? Because you put it in the file and close the drawer.

He is not the first person to provide this advice. Anne Lamott tells her readers to expect, to shoot for “a shitty first draft.” Other writers tell us to just get it down, that the bones of the idea will gain their flesh as we take time to sift through them, like silt and gold in the prospector’s pan.

Our daughter has a paper due, and she is of the leave it to the last minute club. We have been urging her to just try it my way for once. I explained drawer time and she was unconvinced. Then, she reviewed the assignment and realized the unwieldy nature of capturing ideas in words. I explained that I always use an outline, whether I scribble, type or visualize it in my head. I told her I just try to grab all the thoughts first. Later. Later I can polish the sheen and burn off the dross. Later I can make it ready for public. But every idea needs drawer time.

Except this one. I’m throwing it out there to the wind. Because writers like rules so we can break them. By the way, I think this is why some people give up on National Novel Writing Month. It seems like spending a month in a shitty first draft, because it is exactly that. But, if we press on , then we at least have the shitty first draft from which to move forward.

Have you ever read a book and felt like one or more of the themes were underrepresented or underdeveloped?

Put that work in progress away. Work on something new. When you return to the or original, is it more clear? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo?