This is a short excerpt from Writer’s Doubt, adapted for use as a stand-alone blog post.
Your first draft sucks! It’s utter and complete crap.
I am willing to bet every writer on God’s green earth has been told this at some point and somehow we come to believe and even tell ourselves this, too, as if it is okay without ever considering the true mental and emotional impact.
I refuse to join the chorus. I do not agree.
Allow me to share something very important with you and it took me too long to realize it myself.
Your first draft is not crap no matter how far from perfect is.
I regret the many first drafts I’ve thrown away because I’ll never be able to get them back. An idea is wonderful, but an idea written down is heaven. As a draft, it becomes a physical, tangible manifestation you can refer to and build on.
However, throwing away an idea, even metaphorically, is painful and wasteful.
Your dream draft.
I think all of us have woken from dreams and wished we had written them down, even if just half-hazardly, and even if only to remember them later.
How many dreams have you forgotten, but somehow the feeling that they were wonderful still stays with you?
What if you had written about a dream while it was fresh in your mind and what if that became your first draft?
What would you refer to it as? I somehow doubt it would be, crap!
Think about it a moment, consider how that word makes you feel. What emotional value does it provide? Even with the best of intentions we cannot override our true feelings, no matter how much we think we can.
Your first draft matters the most.
Every book, every article and every blog post for that matter starts off with a first draft. A first draft is when you first pen an idea in some coherent form, it’s when you’ve assembled ideas from notes collected on napkins and scraps of paper or from your voice recorder. And you all know how painstaking that process is.
A first draft is perhaps the most important step to completing your project. It’s special. A first draft is what matters more than any other draft, even more important than your final draft!
No one’s ever gotten to the last without the first. Well, at least I haven’t.
The last thing in the world that your first draft is – is crap!
I’m writing this because too many have come to believe that when they sit down and write their first draft that they are doing something that isn’t as important as it is. I mean, how important can crap be?
Why does this matter? Because, it’s a state of mind.
Don’t throw away another seed before it has the opportunity to grow into something beautiful. Don’t throw away the memory of another glorious dream before it can be realized. No. You don’t want to do that!
A secret to becoming productive.
Here’s a secret that I’ve figured out the hard way:
If you do not think constructively about what you are doing, you will not make the necessary mental and emotional investment it takes to see it through to fruition.
Once I figured that out I started becoming prolific and lowered my risk of falling into writer’s block, and thankfully, I am rarely ever blocked now.
Your state of mind has a huge influence on your confidence and your productivity.
I’ve learned how special the first draft is.
Today, when I sit down and write my first draft I have the greatest respect for it. It won’t be perfect and it certainly will not be polished, but without the first draft there’s nothing!
The first draft is your start.
And if you’re a writer you know how difficult it is to simply get started, to put words on the blank page! So if you’ve actually taken the time to sit down and start writing, why in the world would you call it something deprecating, even if metaphorically?
Here’s an idea, call it what it really is!
That’s not what I would call crap. Would you? Think about it.
From a psychological standpoint, the term’s overall implication is of rejection and writers often use it to lessen the impact of said rejection, but what it doesn’t do is inspire, encourage and motivate you about the work still to be done.
It’s not the reverse psychology you might hope it is.
Does anyone really sit down and say to themselves they are going to create crap? How energized would that make you feel? (Okay, this was kind of funny when I read it back, but I am leaving it.)
A polished turd is still a…
If you want to feel better about your imperfect draft, then acknowledge that it is incomplete and know you will shape and polish it. That will take work and time, and it won’t always be fun, but who wants to put that kind of effort into crap? Hardly.
So what if you stop calling it that and instead call it something which represents it’s true value? Would that change your perspective and increase the emotional value you place in your work?
Let’s be honest here, just for a moment, between you and me, in the real world what do you do with crap?
I’m thinking of a word that rhymes with slush.
You’re too good for that and your first draft is, too! No matter how imperfect it might be and no matter how much work must still be done.
With the sincerest respect and admiration for Ernest Hemingway and Anne Lamott, I prefer this quote:
The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.
– Michael Lee (Tweet This Quote)
Go, write your first draft. It’s important.