Embrace Your Garbage First Drafts

Your first draft is garbage.

It’s going to be garbage.

It’s supposed to be garbage.

Sit the fuck down and write it anyway; stop trying to fix something that hasn’t even gotten to the fix it up stage yet.

This is advice that I wish I was given when I first began writing, and then again when I turned to writing as a serious career choice. It’s advice that is so invaluable, that I have it as a sticky note on my computer, so that when I’m sitting down to write, and I try to re-read and edit as I go along with it, I can read it, yell at myself internally (or externally, some days I need the extra kick to my face) and let whatever garbage I’ve put on the screen stay there, until I’m done with it.


The aforementioned sticky note. Not really verbatim, the message is still the same.

I’ve talked about it before, but I have an extremely debilitating habit of editing while writing. To the point that it’s hard for me (read, I have yet to actually do it. RIP at the last four NaNoWriMo attempts) to get through chaptered pieces because I can’t get a chapter actually written – I’m too busy trying to perfect it rather than move the fuck on and finish the damn book. Which… is a problem. You actually have to get through step one (the book) before going to step two (gutting the book.) It’s something that lends rather well to the bulk of the writing that I do, which is shorter pieces, generally in prose, but it doesn’t work very well when I’ve an idea that works better as a novel and I’m sitting here at my computer still playing around with the first two thousand words of a manuscript that should eventually get to around eighty to a hundred thousand.

Que me smacking myself in the face, because I suck.

And the thing is, it’s not like it’s just me. So many other writers that I’ve met or talk to have the same issue – or, in variation, they get through the chapter, but then they’re stuck, because it’s not perfect and they can’t move on to chapter two since it’s not perfect, and they’re stuck there, editing, tweaking, poking and prodding.

And nothing gets done. Not a damn thing. Suddenly you’re looking through your writing folders and you have about fifty WIPs and your notebooks and loose-leaf papers are full of half-finished snippets of something that could be great if you’d just cool your ass and write.

It’s rather frustrating when you sit down and think about it. For me, it’s a lovely little combination of anxiety, perfectionism, and a very fine dusty sprinkling of inferiority complex that demands that I try to make the first draft as impossibly perfect as possible on the first go – or I’m not a real writer. In fact, I’m the worst writer. I’m terrible. I should just quit because ha, I obviously don’t know what I’m doing if I can’t write a best seller on the first pass.

Thing is, I (and others with this same, persistent, asshole of a problem) need to get over it. Or rather, ourselves. Tough self-care. Remind ourselves that most authors don’t bust out best sellers on the first go. If they do – fuck them – but also, they’re probably either highly experienced and have done this a few good times, or they’ve made a contract with an Eldritch horror to gain their superior skills. Your pick.

Point is – stop getting in your own way when it comes to your writing. You want to do the thing. Do it. You can toil and labor over revisions after you’ve got something to revise, and it’s definitely not in a manuscript that isn’t even finished yet.

2 thoughts on “Embrace Your Garbage First Drafts

  1. I find I was better able to let loose when I STOPPED creating with my parents hovering over my shoulder. Not literally, of course, but in my imaginings… expecting their disapproval. When I realized I was drafting with ghosts, I also realized I was writing to SPITE my parents… and once I burst THAT bubble, the real imaginative stuff was free to be erped onto the page for editing by my better angels later! Exorcise those judges… draft like you are on a desert island!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I often write thinking of whether or not other people are going to approve. Whether I’ll get the validation. Stems from the need for perfectionism. It’s a lot easier to write when you let all of that go and just do what you want and worry about the editing and the gritty stuff at a later date.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s