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Shitty first drafts

Creativity and Innovation

Hardly any great piece of work looks perfect when it first emerges as an idea.

After all, all ideas are born ugly as rough, unpolished combinations of random thoughts, which need time and energy to refine and improve.

Because of this, many people are afraid to put down their first thoughts onto paper (or screen) in case someone sees them and thinks they are terrible.

To overcome this, a useful way of thinking about any creative or innovative project is to start with a Shitty First Draft, as coined by Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird.

If you accept that the first time you draft anything creative it will be imperfect, then you can get down all of your terrible ideas.

The important thing is that nobody needs to ever see this shitty first draft. It is just a tool for you to blurt out everything you can think of. It is not for public consumption yet, so nobody can judge you for it.

Then you can use the second, third and other drafts to refine that work until it is better and ready for the world to see.

As Anne Lamott notes:

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. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.

If you just get started, you will get more work done.

It doesn’t need to be perfect yet.

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