Are you struggling to get started with your latest writing assignment? Feeling anxious? Procrastinating? Well, I have some good news for you, courtesy of my favorite writerly advisor Anne Lamott:
“Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of sh*tty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.”
Yes, you too can write a sh*tty first draft. Moreover, you should. You have my permission, and I instruct you, implore you, to grant yourself this same courtesy. Here is why:
Writing Is Thinking
Writing is writing, but writing is also thinking. Have you ever gotten to the end of a paper only to realize that what you ended up writing wasn’t what you thought you were going to write at all? That’s because, as Annie tells us, “very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it.” Even the famous ones. Even the best ones. Really. Look here.
Writing Is a Process
Writing is a process, often a messy, messy process (see link above). Part of that process is getting started. Why is this task of putting words on the page so daunting? It is because we have unrealistic expectations about what writing is and how it works. We think we should be able to sit down and write a masterpiece in one draft, but no one does that. We write the mess first, then we clean it up. That is the process.
So, get messy and have faith! When you finish making your mess, you will know what you are trying to say, and you will be able to tidy things up.
For more on sh*tty first drafts, check out Anne Lamott’s original ideas here.