Shitty First Draft

I’m not feeling particularly creative today.

I should be — I exchanged lockdown in the city for lockdown in a beautiful beach house, where I indulged in lots of lovely wine and cheese, played with my pup who was being the very best boy, and had some truly delightful naps.

Nor was there a mountain of work waiting for me when I got back. In fact, when we got home I did a little gardening and pottered around the kitchen to see about some recipes Smitten Kitchen emailed out.

So by the time I sat down to write, I was expecting great things, or at least some momentum.

What I wanted to write about was the process of developing our individual identities as time goes by, and how that process empowers us to build lives that are fun and fulfilling.

But instead, the morning’s writing ambled all over the place, from our culture’s unhealthy obsession with risk, to The Little Mermaid and what Ariel’s adventures tell us about finding our voice, to how socioeconomics influence our sense of self.

Reading back over it, I imagine reviewers scrawling ‘INCOHERENT’ across the page in fat red marker.

But that’s OK.

Part of the process.

One of the most powerful pieces of advice writers will ever receive is to let yourself write a shitty first draft.

The shitty first draft is actually really critical: you don’t get to publish something fantastic without passing through this stage.

The shitty first draft is where all your ideas come splurging out onto the page. It’s just a mess, different thoughts and directions pulling you all over the place.

And it’s so important because it lets you explore all your ideas, and see what feels right for the point you’re trying to make, and to see which parts are strong enough to develop further.

It shows you which ideas are good but not right, and which ones are crying out for more attention.

I think this idea — the process of developing your true identity — is going to be really central to the book. Maybe 10% of what I wrote this morning is strong enough to use.

Years ago, when my identity was less realised than it is today, that 10% would have felt like a bucket of cold water over my tiny flame of an idea.

But today I know that the 90% I need will come along in the next few rounds of drafting this particular piece.

And in fact that’s true of just about everything.

It’s pretty rare we get it right the first time around. First job interview, first relationship, first home reno — I don’t know anyone who got any of these things right first time.

It all takes practice, and that’s OK. Part of the process.