Crappy First Drafts


Crappy first drafts. Anne Lamott phrases it slightly more colorfully, but that’s the gist. Can’t write? Don’t wait for the Almighty to hand you a perfectly formed manuscript from the sky. Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and just write. Will what you write fall somewhere beneath the quality of a hundred grand emoji? Often yes. Often much less. But you’re trying and that is so much better than not.

And maybe, just maybe in that crappy first draft is the seed for a slightly better second draft. Maybe that buds into a not terrible third draft and—if you cultivate, water, and care for the words—maybe it blooms into something beautiful. Maybe. But you have to start writing before any of that is remotely possible.

Can you tell you have landed in the middle of a pep talk to myself? I’ve been in a period of rolling writer’s block for the last several months. Don’t worry. I’m going to expand this concept for a general audience. Apologies to Anne Lamott because I can’t remember how closely I’m hewing to what she wrote and my copy of Bird by Bird is in storage. Just assume everything that I write, she has written far better.

The principle of crappy first drafts applies to anything in life. Each day is a daunting blank page. We want to write different things: a life of faith, the pursuit of love, the quest for a more just world, or maybe just not messing up as much. But the words, sentence, and paragraphs that make up those ventures can seem impossible to write at times. Thus we often just don’t try. Some days we just run out the clock waiting for God to hand us an easy three-step process from the sky. But all the things you want to write in your life will not happen if you don’t put proverbial pen to paper.

You and I have to do something about this. We have to just hold our nose and jump in. Write a crappy first draft. Shove the question of “What if it’s terrible?” out of your mind. Maniacally laugh at it like a cheesy 90s action flick villain. It probably will be terrible. We’re just starting! Actually it might be “meh,” which is worse than terrible in a culture that glorifies dumpster fires nearly as much as excellence. Don’t worry about that.

But try. It’s Lent. This is the season of grace and crappy first drafts. Our fast may have failed yesterday or we may have skipped a devotional. Today is a new day. Try. Take the first step. Write a crappy first draft. Take on a spiritual discipline. Risk vulnerability. Call a congressperson. Help someone in need. Try to get through the day. You’ll trip and fall. But try.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. That’s nigh impossible, but practice can make something worthwhile or, at the very least, a little less crappy. And in this world, that transformation is practically a miracle.

This post originally appeared on Wilcomoore.

Print Friendly