Way back when we were reading those articles about how horrible Microsoft Word is, I was introduced to a wonderful little word processing program called Q10. I love using Q10. It blacks my screen out so I don’t get distracted, and I can control the colors of the foreground and background. There are no “helpful” formatting tools like in Word.
All there is is a blank screen, a cursor, and a keyboard (and also a very small bottom bar with a word count if you want one). Also, Q10 has some lovely little typewriter clicky sounds that play every time I hit a key, which is why I love using it over any of the other very similar distraction-free word processors. I adore me some clicks.
But I bring Q10 up not just to praise it. Nor do I bring up Microsoft Word to decry it as the grand master of evil. I think both of them are useful for different things.
A couple of years ago my sister bought me a copy of a book called Bird by Bird, written by Anne Lamott. It’s a book on the writing process. Although it is primarily intended for creative writers, it has a lot of good general insights that apply to any kind of writing.
In Bird by Bird, Lamott recommends a writing process that has two stages. During the first stage, you write your first draft in your room with the door closed. The first draft is for you and you alone. Nobody else needs to see it, because your first draft is going to be terrible.
When you go over your first draft and refine it into a second draft, you do it with your door open. Your second draft is meant for the world. It will have an audience—your roommate, your significant other, your friends or family, anybody. It’s a way to keep you in the right frame of mind as you write the two different drafts.
I do the same thing with Q10 and Word. I write all of my first drafts in Q10 because it’s closed off. It fills my entire screen and it offers me almost nothing in terms of arranging my text. There aren’t even any spelling or grammar squiggly lines to distract me as I compose my papers. All I can do is write content.
Once I have a finished first draft, I transfer the file over to Word to write my second and final drafts. When I write this way, it’s much easier to get my initial thoughts down during my first draft (because of the lack of distraction) and much easier to refine my thoughts in the second draft (because of the formatting tools).
By the way, I do the same thing with blog posts. I write those in Q10 and then paste them into the WordPress text box.
Try it out for yourself some time. See if separating the writing tools of your first and subsequent drafts helps your writing process.
Also, read Bird by Bird. It’s freaking hilarious and heartwarming and amazing.