Why You Should Vomit Your First Draft

by Pamela Hodges | 31 comments

There was no hesitation as I vomited.  I didn't put on my glasses, clean the seven litter boxes, or put on shoes before I ran to the toilet and vomited. The virus was forcing me to avoid perfection and get rid of what was in my stomach.

Why You Should Vomit Your First Draft

Vomit your first draft as quickly as a virus makes you run to the toilet.

What is a Vomit Draft?

According to The Free Dictionary, “vomit” has two meanings:

  1. To eject matter from the stomach through the mouth
  2. To be discharged forcibly and abundantly

“Draft” in the phrase “the vomit draft” refers to a preliminary form of any writing, subject to revision. I am not talking about a current of air moving in an upward or downward direction, or a drawing or a sketch.

Note that it is called A Vomit Draft, not A Vomit Final.

Vomit is Disorganized

Literal vomit is not neatly organized, like the food was originally presented on your plate. On your plate, the peas didn't touch the steak or the potatoes. In the toilet bowl, everything is all blended together.

A vomit draft is similar to digested food in a toilet bowl. The first draft of a written piece will not look like a table presentation at a five-star restaurant. The writing may need be reorganized. The final paragraph may work better in the beginning, and you may need to restructure sentences and correct grammar.

Vomiting Prevents Hesitation

Like a virus prevents hesitation, approaching your writing like vomiting allows you to avoid the internal editor, fight resistance, and get the words on the page.

Avoid your internal editor. Get your words on the page. Vomit your first draft.

I never understood why writers would call their first draft the vomit draft until I spend a full day vomiting. Why would a writer think of their words like bits of food that use to be in your stomach? How could words on the page be anything like vomit?

Vomiting for fifteen hours helped me see why we need to vomit a draft, as in discharge your words forcibly and abundantly.

When you write a first draft you have one mission. This mission if you choose to accept it is: Get your words on the page.

Writing your words on the page is as urgent as getting your vomit in the toilet bowl.

The Slow Dance of Perfection

You know the slow dance of perfection to your writing chair. You might sharpen your pencil, check your power cord, check your email eighty-four times. You may worry about what you look like, worry if you have cleaned the seven litter boxes, walked the dogs, or emptied the dishwasher.

Now you are at your desk about to start your story, and you just can't get the words out of your head and on the page. You think of the sentence, and try to edit it before you have written it.

There is no slow dance or perfection to the toilet bowl when you have to vomit. Vomiting is purposeful, with one mission: Get your vomit out of your stomach and into the bowl.

Get your words out of your head and onto the page. You just have to get it out. Write, write, write.

Marion Roach Smith agrees:

It’s called the vomit draft, too, because it will both stink and be pretty much everything you’ve got inside you. In there is beauty and success and everything you ever dreamed of.

Why Vomit a Draft?

Okay, good question. Why should you be quick about writing a first draft? There are two sides to writing.

  1. Writing
  2. Editing

Okay, there is also planning, plotting, or not plotting, or thinking up a situation like Stephen King, or buying a new writing chair, or sharpening your pencil. But the basics, are writing, editing.

A vomit draft is writing without editing. Turn off the internal editor that is screaming at you, “YOU FORGOT A COMMA! STOP WRITING ABOUT HOW SHE IS GOING TO GET OUT OF THE SINKING SHIP AND SAVE HER SIX CATS FROM THE SHARK!”

(I hate to read all caps, but I had to leave it that way, to emphasize how persistence and annoying the internal editor can be.)

Go ahead, vomit.

Celebrate the Vomit Draft

Yes, that's right. Once your first draft is finished, your imperfect vomit draft, it is time to have a 30-second dance party. Celebrate your bravery in writing something that is not perfect. Celebrate beating your internal editor.

Celebrate completion, not perfection. Celebrate your imperfect vomit draft.

How do you like to write your first draft? Do you edit as you write? Or do you write and then edit? Let us know in the comments.


For today's practice, we are going to vomit our writing.

Write for five minutes, without editing. Then go back and correct your commas. Seriously, no, I mean really. Write for five minutes, without fixing any typing mistakes. You can always fix a capital letter that you missed after your five minutes are up.

Choose one of these words, and write for five minutes. I know we usually write for fifteen minutes. This exercise with a timer is to take away hesitation. You don't have time to comb your hair, or get a glass of water. Once the timer starts you are focused.

Vomit for five minutes. (Not fifteen hours.) Choose from these topics, or pick your own:

  1. Content
  2. Embarrassed
  3. Sorrow
  4. Joy
  5. Home

When you're done, share your writing in the comments, and please leave a note of encouragement on your fellow writers' pieces. Let's all celebrate our imperfect vomit drafts together.

xo Pamela
p.s. I feel better.

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Pamela writes stories about art and creativity to help you become the artist you were meant to be. She would love to meet you at pamelahodges.com.



    Thanks so much, it helps me reconnecting with writing without worring… I choosed the word “home”, maison en français, in french. Wrote five minutes without stopping and this is pretty good, exciting, not perfected, but it’s my writing 🙂 You can read the content on my blog : http://www.alliance-ruthetnoemie.org. And add your link too to help my readers and friends to step in this adventure of vomiting…. Hahaha 🙂

  2. Michelle Chalkey

    This post was timely for me as I’m starting a first draft of a story tomorrow. Thanks for the reminder to just get the words out on the page!

  3. Ilan Balzac

    “Whats this?” I wondered. I was looking at a horn that was lying on the beach. My friend glanced at it, and told me he didn’t know. “Maybe it’s some type of horse that we don’t know about,” he said. “I imagine it would be called, like, i dunno, a unihorn? No, that sounds weird. Horn, horn, chorn, corn! Unicorn!”
    “Hey, I think we did find a new species. Though why would a horse be on the beach? There is nothing here for it. Oh well, let’s tell our boss and make trillions of dollars.”
    “Wouldn’t it be weird if the unicorn could like, y’know, use magic with it’s horn? And the horses we know today are unicorns that lost thier horns?”
    “Nah.” Joe shrugged. I persisted in telling him we should leave. He persisted in reminding me we were here for a reason.
    “We have a job to do, and our job is not finding unknown species. We have to find some clams because Boss doesn’t want to pay for them.”
    “But what if these unithingys are tasty?”
    “Hey! Didn’t you get the memo? Unicorns are horses, and it’s illeagal to eat horses.”
    I gave up, and when we had gathered enough clams we headed back and told Boss of our findings. He fired us for joking on the job. Although, looking back on it, this was lucky, as two weeks later the stock market crashed and all the employees lost money trying to keep the company alive. Me and Joe however, ended up living a happy life together.

    • 709writer

      Made me laugh out loud; you’ve got a great sense of humor. : )

    • Ilan Balzac


  4. Ilan Balzac

    I think I wrote longer than five minutes…

  5. Angela

    I enjoyed your “vomit draft,” article. I write my first draft, then I edit. Thank you, for sharing. I needed to read your helpful information.

  6. retrogeegee

    I have chosen sorrow as I always feel quite awkward addressimg the sorrows other people are coping with. It is like I am talking about something that is out of bounds and probably quite outside of the paths of sorrow I have trod. What just crossed my mind is the fact that I know quite a few people who have experiences losses I could never face and hope I never have to face. It doesn’t seem right for me to express a condolence for something they must endure. It’s as if I am reminding them of my good fortune in the face of their grave loss. Maybe it is an old voice from my childhood saying, “Who do you think you are to say this or that?” Ok my five minutes are up. I am trying to do whatever writing practice are showing as I go through what I call my “morning e-mail”.
    Your call to do vomit writing reminded me it was lunch time and by the time I fixed a little mid-day meal the prez’s press secretary was at the podium so I typed and watched TV and lost the clock on my computer so the timing is iffy. Does any of this matter?

  7. EmFairley

    Thanks so much, Pamela! I’m now twelve days from my vomit draft deadline. Getting so close to the finish line, I’m really having to fight the ever present internal editor. To compromise I’m slowly collating lists of what will need doing during each of the four planned edits. I will take a short break before beginning the first of them, but after silencing the natural born editor for so long, she’s raring to go 🙂

  8. Karley

    She stared at her newborn child, her first ever, as tears streamed down her face. Her glazed-over eyes were the only tell she gave away that, on the inside, what she was feeling was not pure and utter joy: and she detested herself for that. For feeling differently than she should. And as if her own self-loathing wasn’t enough each moment of every day, repeating and reminding herself of how terrible she was- strangers and family alike were always asking her the usual questions. So how is the baby? How are you? Isn’t being a mother the most wonderful thing in the world? Aren’t you so blessed?
    Yes. Yes, she would always reply with a mirrored smile and a blow to the heart. She couldn’t escape her horrible feelings. She had always longed to be a mother, and now that he was finally here… she couldn’t muster up an ounce of pleasure or gratefulness. The only way she felt, if she felt anything at all that day, was tired. And the more tired she became, the more her resentment for the baby grew.
    She could not figure out why. She didn’t mind the dirty diapers, or the baby’s deafening cries when she wasn’t quite fast enough with his bottle. She knew to expect these things, so they did not faze her in the slightest. It wasn’t even the fact that her own life had evaporated into thin air the moment his head protruded from her body and he took his first breath. It was something else…
    Perhaps it wouldn’t be as bad if she knew it were worth it. If she could somehow know that he loved her, too. But each time she looked at his beautiful face, longing for some sort of sign- all she could see were two tiny versions of her own blank and glazed-over eyes staring back at her. She almost began to cry, but he beat her to it. She peeled herself up to go make him another bottle, and to get one for herself. What was 8 years sober worth now, anyway?
    The sound of the wine cork popping hardly made a dent in the noise in the apartment, with the baby wailing in the background. But, for her, it was the only sound she heard.

    • drjeane

      This is PTSD (postpartum version) described with a depth of feeling that begs understanding. Then, your final sentence opened another window. Great job!

  9. Jean Blanchard

    This is just 5 minutes worth of vomit around the word ’embarrassed’. No editing, re-writing, spell checking either. Just as it is on the page. It’s not true. I made it up and out!

    God was I embarrassed. It started with this strange cold shivery feeling around my head and middle slightly faint too. Then I felt the need to run like hell and I didn’t know which way. Did aldis have a customer toilet? God knows. I didn’t . That cold panic built in my stomach and my stomach turned inside out and up it all came porridge coffee banana and the Danish pastry shooting out of my mouth in great torrents all over the kitchen and toilet rolls. I sweated and felt my stomach heave again last nights carrots always carrots in sick a squares of celery from the canteen salad. Tears ran down my face and strings of snot hung from my chin … God was I embarrassed. But as near to a lavatory as I could get.

  10. 709writer

    The moment Julia stepped inside the house, all tension melted from her shoulders. A softness, like warm chocolate, settled through her stomach. She set down her knapsack and flopped onto the couch. Shut her eyes. Let nothing filter through her mind but the sounds of the blue jays chirping outside and a crow squawking in the distance.

    The folded quilt resting on the back of the couch landed on her stomach. She opened one eye, smiling at her golden retriever, Max, who stood with his paws propped on the back of the couch, his tongue lolling out.

    “Good boy,” she said as he lowered his head and she stroked it.

  11. Glorie

    Sorrow is a painful process. Obviously. You lose someone and there’s no chance to rewind the tape and there’s no chance of taping over it all you see is that day, that hour, that minute, when you lost someone and you weren’t even there to feel it. Losing my father in the matter that I did was an eye-opening experience. It has led me to believe that there’s nothing you can’t lose with just a few minutes. There is no regret too big to bring you down in a loud way, if you’re strong. My sorrow destroys me quietly, because I’m too ashamed to tell anyone the truth… that I am sad without my father. That although I hadn’t seen him in ten years I have never regretted something more than choosing to go that long without touching him, hugging him hello or goodbye, or even really letting him know that I love him. I am ashamed, and am sorrowful, I miss him. And that’s it I guess. I think of the fact that my mother and brother need to get out of the home so badly that they are throwing most of the excess belongings in a rented dumpster. My father’s wedding suit, all our old Christmas decorations we’d put up together, when he still knew I loved him, when I still knew I loved him. Everything goes away, disintegrates. That was sorrow is, the most real way I’ve ever felt. Loss. It hurts and I’m afraid of ever having to do it again.

    *this was healing, thank you for this prompt/practice*

    • Axis Sheppard

      I don’t know if that’s inspired by your reality, but wow! It felt so real and it’s also really touching… For short: It’s a beautiful text!

  12. Courtney

    Rain splashed beneath my feet. A putrid smell wafted from the garbage bins and from dead, decaying animals that littered the stone. I know they are there, waiting for me just around the corner, just as promised.

    I can smell them beyond the rancid scents. They smell fresh and clean and healthy. It’s something I focus on as the rain starts dripping from the sky again, splashing against puddles and wetting my clothes.

    I tiptoed around the corner, their head is to my back. I walked forward, but they turned around and smiled.

    “Do you have my wallet?” they asked, not at all afraid of my fangs.

    I straightened up, furrowing my eyebrows. “Yes,” I answered. I dug into my pocket, reaching around for the leather object, pushing around cars, purses, and keys. Then I wrapped my long, slender fingers around the object.

  13. George McNeese

    I am bad about editing while writing. But I am trying to break that habit. I am trying to break the perfectionist in me when it comes to writing. Writing in a notebook helps. It allows to write a “vomit draft.” Plus, in doing so, when it comes time to edit, it saves me from printing it out. I can break it down easily.

  14. A Rose

    She had always wanted to do this. Since the day she had started looking at the flashy magazines in her grandma’s home when she was 5 years old. She had dreamt about becoming a writer. During her school and college days she had wrote numerous answers in her exams, various project reports, and some love letters, trying to perfect everything always. But her dream of becoming a writer had never start materializing. She was too scared of the first draft. She was terrified of the internal perfectionist self-editor.
    After she read this post, she realized, it is okay to vomit.

  15. Marcus D

    Nice article but i have to say if someone has vomited on my floor, i’ll clean it up immediately.

  16. agomonee barbaruah

    He was driving at 100. It was refreshing to leave the grime and dust of the city, even for a weekend. His fingers were tapping on the wheel, to the beat of Ed Sheeran’s ‘Castle on the Hill’. There was nobody else on the road, except a few odd trucks carrying river silt and private cars packed with luggage and kids waving at cars behind them. There was a smell in the air, of something familiar, something hopeful. It was always like this.

    The road took an upward climb and the air became lighter and smelled of tea leaves. Shopping multiplexes gave way to roadside stores bunched together under a big peepul tree, fancy restaurants were replaced by that one corner sweet shop that served milky teas in little Styrofoam glasses along with chips and had a cigarette stall in the front and an Indian style bathroom at the back. The road undulated at places, over-bridges tapering down to tree-lined promenades.

    One would think this was just a pleasant looking countryside journey. For him though, this was home. The village kids selling pond-caught fish on the side of the road beckoned to him. The pools of water hyacinth on one side and Instagram-worthy frames of rhinos grazing on distant harvested fields of nothing but stubble and storks, promised him a world he belonged to. A world he was born into. A world that secretly harboured a glimpse of her. Yes, it was home.

    • Shadeburst

      Compare your first and second paragraphs. In the second you write lyrically. In the first you make blunt statements using the verb “was” in every single sentence. I have trained my internal alarm to sound whenever I use that word. Sometimes a “was” structure does the job best. More often it leads to repetitive, banal writing.

    • agomonee barbaruah

      Thanks for your feedback. I like the idea about the “was” structure. Didn’t think about it that way. Will set an internal alarm myself now. Cheers

  17. Melanie Larsen

    Who’d have thought that vomiting could be so fun and freeing? Here’s my barf, in one painfully long, disgusting paragraph:

    It actually worked. There he was across the street, like May had said he would be. His face was obscured by the shadows of the English Ivy bulging over the porch’s awning. I could see the rest of his body, though: Still, statuesque. Or maybe that’s not quite the word. He was round in the center — like an egg. Or Alfred Hitchcock. I thought he would be charming, handsome. Shockingly beautiful. But he wasn’t. He looked more like someone’s uncle who everyone whispers about at Thanksgiving just before he’d arrive: “He’s never had a girlfriend and lives alone and eats so many of those frozen meals. What’ll become of him?” Would he move or just stand there? Would he lift his arm and beckon me into the house? May wasn’t specific about what exactly would happen once he appeared. All she said was this: “Mr. Stone will come for you if you do the following: First, pick up the three most heart-shaped rocks under the porch and toss them into the pond behind McGuffy Elementary. Then, dig a hole under the tallest willow on J Street, and bury one-half of your favorite pair of shoes.” I can’t believe I actually did it, too. I sacrificed a pair of magenta Doc Martin mary janes I’ve cherished since college — tears polka-dotting the earth as it slowly consumed the red leather. Am I that lonely? Am I that desperate to escape? I wonder if he could see me, peeking through the blinds. Is he alive, or is he a ghost? Who is he? Where did he come from? My heart began to tap the sides of my ribs harder and harder as I waited for something. Anything. And then… movement. I held my breath as he turned, stepped into the house, and closed the door behind him. A flash of light illuminating the beige curtains covering the square windows. Gone as quickly as he appeared — but now he was home. And I was no longer alone. I had a neighbor.

    • Axis Sheppard

      I really like the way you’re writing and the final situation of your character. It’s like she is an hermit or maybe she is feeling anxious/uncomfortable around others, so I find the idea of adding a neighbor to perturbate her reality really good. Nice intro! Will you continue it?

  18. Serena

    I actually really enjoyed this. This is five minutes out of my current project, a sort of post- apocalyptic novel. I’ve never gone in and vomited words like that, but I’d wanted to write this scene for a while, ever since I discovered that my protagonist is pregnant. I can never seem to get it right with the pronouns though, I always feel as though theres a million of them.

    She panted, her brow slick, the salt stinging as it dripped into her eyes. Over the sheet, she could see Samira stand. Her eyes wasted no time on the woman who had been her only help, and instead found their way to the bundle that lay in her arms, smearing her shirt. She grinned, exasperated and disbelieving. In the dim light, she could sense that all was not right though, through the elated expressions of Samira and June, who hadn’t moved or removed her hand from Cass’, something was wrong. The silence was deafening. She let go and reached out, gesturing clumsily that she wanted to hold the baby.

    Samira leaned over her, placing it’s warm body against her skin. She sat it up on her shoulder, her hands shaking as she rubbed it’s back, hoping it was the right thing to do. The seconds ticked by as she worked, the whole world seeming to wait with bated breath.

    Then it came; the best sound she would ever hear. Cries pierced the silence, laughter erupting from the two other girls, who embraced one another, tears in their eyes. She reached for her discarded shirt, and draped it over the baby – a girl. Cheers and more laughter could be heard coming from outside, Reese and Kent clapping each other on the back. Finally, it felt as though death no longer lingered, contaminating her. She had created life. With the help of June, they wrapped the infant up in her shirt, and repositioned her in her mother’s arms. The girl seemed to know what she was doing, despite her lack in age.

    Cassidy returned her complete attention to the baby, and realised that their struggles no longer held purchase. Would they still be able to travel, would this slow them down, would they be a burden; none of it mattered. She felt nothing but selfish joy, staring into the face of her daughter.

  19. Christy Lane

    (This is how I write when I just vomit everything out. Written with the help of very simple language and its totally original and unedited. Yeah, that’s me.)

    When I saw it for the first time, it was lying there on the bench, alone, with no one to look for, with no one to care. I glanced everywhere, my eyes searched every corner of the street to find its owner, but atlast, I found no one suspicious in my sight. Infact there was not a single soul roaming around the streets of cheshire at this late hour of night. The pathway was completely deserted.

    I went a little closer just to catch a proper glimpse of the olive green diary and was surprised to find it wet. Half of its pages were torn while some were filled with a heavy amount of ink. Blue, smeared ink. Words were an alien language and pages were the tales of blue. Not even a single grapheme expressed the untold story of the writer. How could they? They were hid behind the curtain of moisture and ink. I was intrigued.

    Curiosity got the best out of me and I cautiously took the bundle of pages in my hands, just to turn it’s sheets towards the next, captured in the zeal of discovering something new. It was wrong of me to check out someone else’ work. I knew it was wrong. But either way, I had no satisfaction and curiosity had already killed the cat.

    When I stopped at it’s very first page after turning them like a series of leaves, I was amused to find it dry unlike others. It was filled with hundreds of tiny, rough scribblings, unfazed by the touch of water at the bottom of the page. I scrunched my eyes and read the letters.

    “13th June 2014,” it read. I continued,”The first day, where I write in you is to-”

    “What do you think you’re doing?” I froze.

  20. Jufran Helmi

    Seorang Ibu yang mencoba membujuk anaknya untuk terus berpuasa. Anak itu berusaha mematuhi ibunya karena tertarik dengan bujuk rayu ibunya.
    Ketika siang, dia mengatakan kepada ibunya bahwa dia haus. Kata Ibunya, coba alihkan pikiran ke yang lain. Anak itu menurut.
    Ketika sudah agak sore, anak itu mengeluh lagi. Kata ibunya, sayang sekali hari sudah hampir sore. Cobalah bawa berbaring tidur.
    Ketika sudah hampir maghrib, anak itu banguin dari tidurnya mengatakan bahwa ia haus sekali. Ibunya mengatkan bahwa tinggal 10 menit lagi azan akan berbunyi.
    “Baik, Ibu. Aku akan tidur lagi. Doakan ibu, aku kuat,” kata Mira.
    Tepat ketika azan berbunyi, ibu memanggil Mira.
    “Mir, Mir, cepat bangun Nak. Minumanmu sudah siap.”
    Tak ada suara di kamar.
    Ibu menjenguk ke kamar.
    Ibu menjerit, “Miiraaaaaaaaaaaaa……………………..”. Ibu jatuh pingsan. Mira tak bernyawa lagi. Bibirnya kering.

    (sorry for writing in Indonesian)

    • Debra johnson

      now to just translate it…. Writing should be in what ever language you are comfortable writing in.

  21. Debra johnson

    Heres my five minutes of unedited practice on content. Though I’m thinking the actual content will be seen later as I continue writing on this…. It was a great warm up- thanks!


    We try so hard to make life what we want or think we want. But
    there are times what we want isn’t what we need its simply the fluff we often
    get rid of later. I know this to be a fact because recently it’s what I did
    after the death of a family member. A. t first I couldn’t bare to par with
    anything because it was the last thing they touched or had their sent still on
    it. All of these things reminded me of this person and cherished and not so
    cherished memories.

    But after a week or two these things began to grow legs and move
    to surround me smothering me to the point I couldn’t breath or move without my
    mid going crasy

    “I cant part with these things, because they were so apart of
    him, of my love. If I get rid of these things I will get rid of him. And
    without him I can not survive. I will be left alone with no one.

  22. Axis Sheppard

    I always been curious about my real home called: “Earth”. But now that I was finally here, I couldn’t help but feeling embarrassed. These people had a gift for making me feeling akward. I don’t mean to be rude, but I had no idea of their existence. From RIB station, where I come from, they said that everyone has been rescued; In fact, they supposedly left nobody behind us, on Earth.

    “Bunch of cheap fabulists…”, I whispered to myself as I smile akwardly at my neighbor’s hostile gestures. He squeezed the rope around my size, tighter. I made a weird mimic and then, he pushs me towards others, like I was a sort of prey they found on their territory. They were about to take a decision about futur. Mine, unfortunately: the foolish intruder.

  23. Priyanka Agarwal

    I don’t know what to write with the word ‘embarrassed’. I picture myself (or maybe another girl) feeling embarrassed at a party, with Champagne in hand, while she’s wearing a golden evening dress or gown with lots of golden sparkles. Her hair is tied in a side bun at the back of her head. She’s dusky in complexion. She’s biting her lip and looking down, flushed, to express her embarrassment. Don’t know why she’s embarrassed. Maybe a guy in the party ditched her. This guy, by the way, looks dapper in an evening suit, with a bowtie, not a necktie, and a black coat over a white shirt. He has curly hair, he looks just like V, and he’s probably even shouting there. There’s another girl, I guess, who’s the bitch, who doesn’t want me and V to be together. Maybe she wants him for herself. I don’t know what else to write. I don’t want to think at this point of time. I feel too lazy to think. I don’t want to think about plot points, story, source of embarrassment, the contents of the scene, etc. I’m just VOMITING!



  1. I Tried Vomit Writing and I Feel Much Better » Lucas Horn - […] recently came across a post on my Flipboard about a process called “Vomit Writing“. I’m a huge fan of…

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