by Lisa Bullard
Some days I really wish I was better at being a bad writer.
Here’s why. Drafting, that early stage of writing when you are just trying to capture your ideas, usually works best if you can get words down as quickly as possible. But my inner editor is horribly critical. If I let that inner editor take the wheel while I’m drafting, it’s as if my car has hit a patch of ice: my wheels start spinning, I skid, and eventually I crash into a snow bank. So rather than writing badly, I often don’t write at all—to avoid that crash.
In a real-life skid, you have to react quickly; there’s no time to over-think. You correct the car’s trajectory based on instinct and practice. I advocate a lot of “behind-the-wheel” practice for your writing students, too, to counter tendencies towards their inner editors taking over too soon in the writing process. These inner editors too often have names such as “perfectionism” and “lack of confidence,” and they’re bad driving instructors.
I start each writing session with a “quick write.” (You can download one of mine here.) For this exercise, the only measure of student success is that they keep writing. Even better, forbid the use of erasers, since this is one time when spelling things correctly doesn’t count.
Throw the editors out of the room for these ten minutes—and that includes your own editorial voice as teacher, as well as the critics living inside each of your students. I’m a huge fan of a well-crafted sentence. Editing and revising DO have a huge role to play. But the writing ride is plenty long—and drafting must come before revising. Give students’ creativity some daily driving practice before you ask them to let their inner editors take the wheel.