To simplify the historical evolution of the draft, we could say that the medieval period favored materiality (i.e., being printed), the modern period has broken away from uncompromising materiality but not yet fully embraced paperless alternatives, and the post-modern period has entirely gone post-print.

Interestingly, the cheaper and more democratized our thought and writing technology is the easier it is to work with drafts and to see one’s work as a draft. For example, the very concept of a draft was only made possible after the invention of printing and most importantly cheap paper. The introduction of the typewriter only made literary production faster and when writers work faster, they tend to try different ways of writing their work, which increases the production of drafts.

Today, with electronic files making it so easy to make revisions and even to track these, there is no better time to intentionally see one’s body of work as a perpetual draft and to experiment with draft-like techniques.

It is not surprising that digital gardening, say through my forest garden of the mind, fits perfectly well with walking and working with drafts (see writing using the talahardin is archival work).


Scandura, Jani. “The Matter of Drafts.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature, edited by Paula Rabinowitz, Oxford University Press, 2020. (Crossref),

technologies that transformed literary production and broadened the boundaries of what constitutes a draft.

‘manuscript’ is a concept that was produced by printing,” not the other way around.

Manuscripts—and drafts too, as its English etymology suggests— are necessarily modern since they derive conceptually from and in relation to print technology.

By the late 19th century, the form of manuscripts changed dramatically with the introduction of the typewriter.

Understanding transformations in the production of paper is itself crucial for making sense of modern manuscripts and drafts.

While “draft” was used to describe in-process or “rough” forms of writing from the 16th century, it was not until the 1850s to 1880s, when affordable paper was more plentiful, that the assumption that literary compositions might rely on a lineage of a multitude paper “drafts” became part of common language.