Why writing a miserably bad first draft is essential

Perfection doesn’t magically flow onto paper or screen. Go ahead, and stink up the joint with your shoddy prose. You can—and should—fix it later, but the freedom to fail can be liberating.

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My library of books about writing expands every year, but no author has shaped and affirmed my writing process like Anne Lamott.

In “Bird by Bird,” Lamott liberated me with these words:

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper.”

I was already creating lousy first drafts, but I didn’t trust them. If I was a “good” writer, wouldn’t the words pour forth in perfect order?

Lamott taught me that my terrible first drafts are not just OK; they are necessary.

I pass her wisdom along to every writer I coach or train or advise, whether they’re writing at work, starting a blog, contemplating a memoir or simply keeping a journal.

You have to start somewhere, so start with a mess. Write a stream-of-consciousness draft. Silence your inner critic. Don’t edit, reorganize, second-guess or fact-check.

Here’s why you should write bad first drafts:

1. Writing nonsense is fun.

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