A Successfully Crappy First Draft!

So I’m taking a writing class for my own fun and interest, and I just had an epiphany about perfectionism in writing.

Like many of us, I want my first tangible efforts to be…well…better than actual crap.  I know it won’t be ferpect right out of the gate, but I at least would like to know it is heading in the right direction.  I figure my inner editor counts as cleaning up the first draft in my head, and what gets past her and into print for the first time is really my second draft, right?  Or at the very least, a better first effort?

Yeeaaahhh….not so much.

Okay, okay, I was already aware that a more successful route is to just get it down in print, and work with it from there.  Easy to know, harder to own. Apparently I’ve been confusing successful with production and not process.  Even though it sounds simple to write a little bit every day and just barf it out with the ability to come back and clean it up later, it turns out that I’ve been writing more like an anorexic than a bulimic.  Either way, I’m malnourished.  Perfectionism? Me? What?

Anne Lamott, spunky author of Bird by Bird, delivered my aha! moment: purposely write a “s**tty first draft”.

Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of s**tty first drafts.  All good writers write them.  This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts.  (21)

The first draft is a child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later….There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you are supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go–but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages. (22-23)

I’ve read this idea before, but today it just adhered to my cells.  I went from knowing that it is okay to have an icky first draft to understanding that it should be an icky first draft.  It’s whole milk that produces cream, you can’t get that from skim.

This is something I can wrap my head around: I can create the perfect crappy first draft, I’ve been stifling it all along!  Ha ha haaaa…

Seriously though, I sat down with my journal to play.  And I gave my inner editor some time off, inviting her to come back when I had something for her to review rather than preview.  Since she was pretty exhausted, she felt this was a good idea and promptly took off for an Arabic bath (thank you, Jenny Morbey Makes!).  I haven’t seen her since.

Sitting down and playing was…super fun!!  Letting go, I flew instead of walked,  I ate lobster instead of sandwiches, and I colored with the whole box of Crayola instead of my #2 pencil.  I am no longer the same.  Oh, I’m gonna do that again!  And again.

A successfully crappy first draft nourishes the creative garden.  I can’t wait to see what grows!  I’ll even invite my inner editor back for the harvest–but only after she enjoys her vacation.

How To Create Your Own Wildflower Meadow

photo from American Meadows

2 Comments on “A Successfully Crappy First Draft!”

  1. First drafts are great fun to write. I used Camp NaNo last year to write a first draft of a new WIP. I switched off my editor and poured the words onto the screen. I think it’s the best way to write that first draft. Editing is for later.

    Happy Writing 🙂


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