Write the Draft

A great quote from Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life was just brought to my attention:

“I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much.”

I’ve often said to friends that the thing about writing I’m best at is Facebooking and cleaning my apartment. Getting those ideas down initially is, to use the most trite and most apt of metaphors, pulling teeth. When you value prose (or battle perfectionist tendencies), it can be hard to get the words down because your first take will usually be…messy. Verbs will be weak, characters undeveloped, “aha!” moments more “ah…hmm…?” That can be hard to accept.

But the breakthroughs come, eventually, sometimes while you’re writing, sometimes while you’re dusting. Even if you write the perfect paragraph in the middle of your essay first and work out from there, or fumble your way through an outline with indecipherable talking points and excessive bullets, you got your idea out there.

Write it down. It won’t always be perfect at first, it might not be perfect in the end. But it’s not the perfection that matters; it’s the contribution to the conversation. You can fix the verbs later.

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