Juan Olvera

Publishing good second drafts

Draft

I’ve been trying to improve the amount of writing I publish. I write a lot, but mostly rough ideas in a notebook. I followed every tip online to write more, and they worked, but now I don’t have content I’d like to publish in my blog, yet. So, the problem wasn’t quantity but quality. Or so I thought.

I don’t write for SEO purposes. I don’t care if my website gets tons of visits, because my website is a form of self-documentation. I want to write about what and how I learned it and put it out there in case someone finds it useful.

Publishing revised, edited, quality content is okay for a magazine site, or a serious publication, but for a personal website, I decided that publishing drafts is okay too. The web facilitates that. Put out there a work-in-progress post, get feedback, and update as needed.

This is not a revolutionary idea. Anne Lammot in her book “Bird by Bird” writes about shitty first drafts, which are what you do when you want to throw whatever you have in your head about a particular topic in paper or your text editor. Random thoughts, senseless paragraphs, stuff you can put together in better shape later, these are part of your shitty first draft.

All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.

—Anne Lammot, Bird by Bird

I read her book last year, and I’ve kept this idea of publishing drafts in my blog in my head for a while. This year I came upon gwern’s website where he uses tags to describe the state of his writings.

The "status" tag describes the state of completion: whether it’s a pile of links & snippets & "notes", or whether it is a "draft" which at least has some structure and conveys a coherent thesis, or it’s a well-developed draft which could be described as "in progress", and finally when a page is done—in lieu of additional material turning up—it is simply "finished".

—Gwern Branwen

With these two ideas together, I finally had a concept (shitty first drafts) and an implementation (status tags) to publish drafts in my blog. Even though I still don’t want to put shitty first drafts out there, I’m okay with putting good second ones. This concept gives me more freedom on making progress in my content and less pressure to put it out there. Also, it’s open to feedback in an early state.

I’ll try to limit myself from keeping the blog full of drafts. Maybe I’ll keep it at three-four drafts maximum. Also, I want to keep track of the changes, so I’ll somehow keep a changelog per post to document the progress.

This is my latest attempt to publish more content mostly for self-documentation and journal my experiences. Instead of doing short rants on social media, I expect to put my thoughts in a place I own.

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