On why rough drafts should be kept secret.


For writers’ sakes, it’s important to distinguish between what words, especially rough drafts, are meant for the public and what words might be best kept private.

Private writing should be guarded with care. Why? You wouldn’t want a stranger or unkind person reading your journal (or anyone, for that matter), right? For the same reason, writers should be cautious about sharing their work before it is ready. Rough drafts are a sacred place, where anything is possible, where there can be complete honesty, where ideas can take root without being scorched by shame, judgment, or feelings of inadequacy.

It’s about timing and boundaries.

I’m often tempted to share writing prematurely. And I often have. Can anyone relate? Initially, it’s a thrill and curiosity to put words and ideas out there, for the world to read. We wonder what everyone might think. Is it any good?

But, depending on how dear some work is to you, putting such raw material out there, for the world to evaluate so prematurely, is a risky business.

A rough draft is like an actor rehearsing for their performance. The audience could have a blast witnessing all the fantastic preparations; however, at a certain point, the actors need their space to memorize their lines and put on their make-up and costumes and receive feedback from their director. Besides, the members of the audience will soon want to go and find their seats on the other side of the curtain. They are there for the show, not for the backstage work.

Public vs. Private:

Public writing is polished and hard work.

Private writing can be a raw outpouring of ideas, reactions, creativity, emotion, and thought. It can be experimental and, for lack of a less sensitive word, vulnerable.

Public writing is conscious of an audience. It is a deliberate presentation to a group of people.

Some initial private writing is meant for an audience of two – self and God – where no front is needed; there is no image to uphold; no performance to create; no message to send that isn’t already known.

Some more advanced private writing will be appropriate for a tight group of people who have the skill and willingness to help with the development process. But still, I would proceed with caution. Few people are in fact qualified. Fewer than we realize, I think.


The importance of knowing when to share:

I write these things because, with social media and self-publishing, it’s so easy for everyone to quickly share, before the pie has fully baked, or while the turkey is still raw on the inside. The cook will be disappointed, and so also, the dinner guests. Keep the rough draft in the oven until it’s done baking. Everyone will be thankful for it.



3 thoughts on “On why rough drafts should be kept secret.

  1. This is good stuff! Thank you for your honesty and sense of boundaries. I really appreciate you sharing your open and honest thoughts as you go through this process of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whether a draft should be rough or final, public or private depends on what genre you are writing in. The two genres that come to mind is fiction and nonfiction. I think when we think of rough drafts we are referring to rough drafts of fiction books. A fiction or novel’s plot and character is largely fictional. A nonfiction book structure and content cannot be criticized too much. I write nonfiction so I don’t have much freedom to be creative.

    Liked by 1 person

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