Don’t Flush the First Draft

June 15, 2022

Having a “shitty first draft” and being a good writer at the same time might seem counterintuitive. You’re supposed to be naturally good at writing to be considered a good writer, right? According to Anne Lamott, this just isn’t realistic.


Reading the excerpt “Shitty First Drafts” from her novel Bird by Bird was a gamechanger for freshman me. I was a very young and very ambitious writer with high expectations. Each time I would sit down with my freshly sharpened pencil and a blank page, I would give myself a headache trying to formulate the perfect sentence before even daring to write it down.


One of the best things about first drafts that I’ve come to realize is that absolutely no one will be reading it. Your initial thoughts will almost certainly never see the light of day. So why care about who says what or who does that? Let there be a flowery description of a room, or have your character say a corny joke. Who cares? You’re exploring. You’re trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t.


Lamott says that’s good.


The hardest thing for me was to simply start writing. I wanted things to sound eloquent, for my point to get across immediately and in a way that my favorite authors could. It takes time to understand that this really isn’t how it works. Lamott writes that within those thoughts you let run rampant and wild, there’s bound to be something worth keeping in your second, more refined draft.


We all know that writing is a long, arduous, and sometimes torturous process. We do it anyway because it’s rewarding in the end. But it has to start somewhere. So, give yourself some credit and go crazy.


Just make sure not to flush that shitty first draft.

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