All You Need Is A Priming Read

by Fareeda Abu-Juam ’24

I love metaphors in stories, especially where they aren’t supposed to make sense. There’s nothing better than reading about why writing is like KFC, or why writing feels like eating a flower. Better yet, writing could be like eating KFC and a flower. Given that, I think it’s fair to compare writing to one of my favorite tools: programming. To be specific, this is a short anecdote about how writing is like a while loop, and as such my presentation of why all you need is a priming read.

A while loop is a powerful tool in computer science that allows you to dole out a repetitive task to a computer. It works like this – ignore the semantics of the curly brackets below:

Peterson, Emily. Ask Chef Emily: How Do I Deal With My Picky Kids at Dinnertime? 13 Jan. 2017,

  • You propose a condition:

While (eating a pickle) {

  • You propose a set of actions to keep going if that condition is true:

Draw a smiley face;


And the resultant action is a program that continues to draw a smiley face so long as you eat that pickle. Once you stop eating your pickle, you’re done. The only problem is, have you started eating a pickle? (I know this is getting quite arbitrary but bear with this metaphor). No, you haven’t, the first step we forgot to add is that you need to start eating a pickle first, which is something we call a priming read. So, the code should read:

Eat pickle;

             While (eating pickle) {

Draw a smiley face;


Essentially a priming read is the variable that allows you to start your loop. Without it the loop never begins, and nothing gets done. 

That’s how writing works for me but in this case the loop is:

Write a bad draft;

     While (draft is bad) {



Whenever I start writing, that first initial step of writing a draft is the hardest. I’m scared to have a bad draft, even though I’ve worked as a consultant for over a year now. It’s hard to have something you worked hard on seem terrible especially when you tried your best. However, it’s even harder to get to a finished product if you never start out. The truth is good essays need bad first drafts; bad in the sense that they are bad in comparison to your final product. Through refining our essays we’re able to reach better works that truly reflect what we want to say. 

I started off this essay three different ways with multiple angles, but never actually wrote anything down because I wanted this piece of creative work to be good the first time. However, it meant I could never start my while loop of editing and editing and editing, without my first priming read where I wrote a bad first draft.

So remember, all you need is a priming read when you’re struggling to write. 

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