As Lamott describes it, letting yourself write “a self-indulgent and boring beginning” or a paragaph that is way too long for the total length of the essay frees you from the critical voices sitting on your shoulder:
I’d start writing without reining myself in. It was almost just typing, just making my fingers move. And the writing would be terrible. . . . But because by then I had been writing for so long, I would eventually let myself trust the process — sort of, more or less.
Once you have something — anything — down on the page, it’s easier to return to it for a second draft. But the pressure of deadlines and the ease of revision on the computer means that many writers, particularly students, are not fully comfortable with writing essays in multiple, distinct drafts.
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