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.
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:
- To eject matter from the stomach through the mouth
- 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
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.
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:
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.
p.s. I feel better.