Writing a Bad First Draft

Have an assignment deadline coming up with nothing done? Experiencing a severe case of writer’s block? The solution: write a horrible first draft. Seriously, don’t think about what you’re writing, sentence structure, or grammar, just let your mind wander and your fingers type. The inner perfectionist inside of you will be screaming and that’s okay. Don’t reign yourself in; just let the words flow freely. It will be terrible, but no one will ever see it. 

I can’t take credit for this groundbreaking idea; Anne Lamott wrote about it in Bird By Bird and the term “Shitty First Drafts” belongs to her. Lamott writes that “The first draft is just to get something—anything—down on paper. The first draft is the down draft—you just get it down.” She then explains that “The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up.” This is the draft where you need to go through and find the bits and pieces that you wrote and are solid, and work on them to figure out what you want to say. The third draft, most of the time, is your final draft, where you polish and perfect. Lamott explains that “the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.” Hopefully after multiple drafts, you can come out the other side with a great piece of writing.

All good writers write bad first drafts. Famous authors, like Anne Lamott, and yourself have that in common. So don’t be so hard on yourself! Do not expect to sit down and bang out an immaculate final paper, it takes time, grit, and many, many edits. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an essay assignment, blog, press release, important email, term paper, or a Facebook post, if you get stuck, write a bad first draft and see where it takes you.

Audrey Springman 

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