“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something — anything — down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately.”
I love this comment, don’t you? It’s from Anne’s very personal and immensely helpful writer’s guide called, Bird by Bird. It’s taken from a chapter on first drafts that’s one of the best in the book — and the most encouraging. Why? Because it makes no bones about the fact that all writers — even the most successful ones — are no strangers to lousy first drafts. Whether you’re a seasoned writer or an aspiring one, Anne’s a firm believer that you need to lighten up and cut yourself some slack in the first draft department. Because, most early drafts are lackluster and lousy: they need a lot of work and that’s the long and the short of it. Here’s how Anne puts it:
“Very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it. Nor do they go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow….We all often feel like we are pulling teeth, even those writers whose prose ends up being the most natural and fluid.”
Let’s remember that writing, like any other craft, isn’t easy to master. If this was true, everyone would be doing it. It takes patience. It takes perseverance. It takes preparation. But it also takes passion and compassion. We have to be willing to write through those first few pages of lousy stuff to get to a great phrase, a graceful sentence or two, or if we’re really lucky, a comely paragraph. That’s what writing often comes down to: mining in the mud for a few nuggets of gold we can use to create something beautiful. First efforts are just part of the foundation — not the final building. Let’s raise those roof beams high!