I am a huge fan of Anne Lamott, especially her book “Bird by Bird,” which is a book about writing. In it, she calls the first draft the shitty first draft. I am going to use that language for the rest of this blog simply because it is exactly how we need to view our first draft of a book.
The reason why we call it a shitty first draft is that it is not your best work. It is a very rough and tumble and ugly and messy draft. I often tell my clients that when you sit down to write your first draft, you don’t stop to self-edit because anytime you self-edit, you’re also allowing the inner critic to come and play in your sandbox. You do not want to have an inner critic editing or writing your book. You want it to come from that wise self that is connected to the flow of creativity.
Start with an outline
If you have a very good outline, you won’t be staring at a blank page when you start. And then just write! Write and don’t stop. Don’t self-edit. Make it as shitty as you possibly can because you’re going to be editing this book.
Start with an audience of one
I also urge you to write to yourself for the first draft. I often advise writing with a reader in mind and that we are writing in service of the reader, and I fully, 100%, stand by that statement. However, the first draft is for yourself. You are writing it so that you know what your ideas are on this topic while you’re trying to get it all on the page. You are also going to do some healing in your shitty first draft. That can often cause you to write in the margins and lay it all out. You may hate things that happened in your past in a memoir or hate mistakes you made if you are teaching others in your business book. The point is to get it all out and do your healing work in the shitty first draft.
I love shitty first drafts. This is your permission to make it as shitty as you possibly can. Just let loose, grammar doesn’t matter, spelling doesn’t matter, you can use the words really and very and actually over and over. When I write fiction, I put in parentheses “insert sex scene here” where I feel the story needs one, but I can’t be bothered to write a sex scene right now because my kids are in the other room and I’m not in the mood. That’s how you write a shitty first draft. You just write. Know that your book is not going to look like the finished product in the first pass.
Don’t write it for your mom and don’t care if your mom’s ever going to read it in the first draft. Don’t write it for your spouse and don’t care if your spouse is ever going to read it in the first draft. Don’t write it for your mentor either. Write it only for yourself.
Now, I want you to tell me what your shitty first draft is about. What are you writing about?