The Importance of Shitty First Drafts
Updated: Mar 9, 2019
During one of my first English Composition classes as a college freshmen I read an article that changed my approach to writing: Shitty First Drafts by Anne Lamott.
Now I’ll be the first to admit I was confused by the title of the article. I couldn't help but think: Why would any professor recommend their students read about shitty first drafts? Why would anyone want to write a shitty first draft? Wouldn’t it defeat the purpose of your draft and cause you more work later on?
As it turns out, writing shitty first drafts is excellent advice and saves you time in the long run.
See, the hardest part of writing is getting started. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the scope of the project, or to feel uninspired to write. If you’re lucky you’ll have time to work through these challenges, but if you have a deadline approaching you need to move quickly.
When you start with a shitty first draft you don’t have to worry about finding the right words to convey your thoughts, or organizing paragraphs so they flow well. You can write anything about your topic that comes to mind. It honestly doesn’t matter if it’s good writing or not – that’s not the goal here.
The goal is to brainstorm and get in the rhythm of writing.
When you have the freedom to write whatever comes to mind, it lets your creativity flow. Oftentimes when you go back and re-read what you wrote, you can find patterns or ideas that inspire you. And because you’ve already gotten used to writing about this topic, it’ll be easier to arrange those inspired thoughts into words for a presentable second draft. You'll even save time on the editing process because you already worked through the roughest ideas in your first draft.
So the next time you have to undertake a writing project, consider beginning with a shitty first draft. It may sound unconventional, but it'll improve your writing and speed up your writing time by leaps and bounds.
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