Don’t Kill the Rough Draft


“Don’t kill the rough draft” was the heading of an assignment in poetry workshop today. Everyone around the table was baffled at first but as our instructor began to explain, knowing smiles grew. She said most poets have trouble with the creative process being blocked at one of two points--either being intimidated by the blank page or limiting their exploration of an idea. Self-critical editing in the early stages of writing can stop the flow of images, rhythms and depth excursions that are the purpose of all rough drafts. I think her observation is right on target in more arenas than creative writing.

How many times have you tried to express a vision or a desire, either to yourself or to someone else, and given up short of clarity because you weren’t meeting your standards of imagination or logic or high purpose? Or have you interrupted a partner or a child’s budding idea with your questions and criticisms and seen the light go out of their eyes? We are quick to express skepticism and disagreement and we are likewise stingy with encouragement and praise for ourselves and for others. I believe that tendency stifles growth and the full flowering of beauty.

I challenge you in the coming week to try the same peer-review process we are practicing in poetry workshop. Comment only on what you find good or helpful, on ideas and words that shine, images or plans that stop you in your tracks and make you catch your breath. See what happens if you nurture creativity instead killing the rough draft.

Blessings on your journey,

Eileen J Terry

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