When I didn’t do first drafts—that belongs to a particular historical period (when I was doing my Humanities degree as a mature student—in the 90s), and not doing first drafts related to the doing of essays and academic work (there was a dissertation).
Previous to this—I’d spent my time doing fiction.
I came from an ordinary working class home—there were books around, but these tended to be passed on to other members of the family.
I wasn’t even of the middle class—arena (I didn’t want to say ‘fraternity’). I hadn’t read the classics, only those we did at school.
And—I did draft after draft—I was a novelist—I completed maybe two novels—I’d get so far, and then feel so thoroughly lost that I felt I had to go back to the beginning—try to find where I was up to and how I’d got there.
It didn’t exactly work because I’d find things I could say here, or I went off in a direction there, and the story would end up somewhere else entirely, and a great tail of stuff hanging on at the end—when I’d found bits to add, they were often somewhere in the middle, and what came after—it no longer applied.
I suppose this is why I’m still interested in the ‘plot it all out’ camp as well as the ‘let it come’ camp.
But—whatever I attempt to do—I can’t keep going, relentless—I have to go back.
However, once I got into doing the degree (I thought I’d do the degree through the week, and my own writing at the weekend—ha!)—I didn’t have time—I said this before. I worked piece-meal with an essay—read and read, took notes, took notes of notes—but found a thread somewhere—began there—went from there to where I felt was best—no, not best—I went where was insistent. It was all feeling, rather than plan.
I began to work this way from a certain point when I figured that the degree was mine. I used to say I was doing so-and-so’s essay—wrong—the essays were mine—they did not belong to whichever tutor had set them.
And—the course was so pressured that there was no time to do more than—start off with an essay and get to the end of it.
I have handed in essays, portfolios—even the dissertation—that—I produced by feeling in that way—and then I didn’t have time to even read it over—the deadline was there.