Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Your First Draft Sucks—So What?

Eighteenth century French philosopher Voltaire famously said “perfection is the enemy of good.” I bring this up because many of you are starting to set your BHAGs for 2016 (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) and have asked about writing a book, white paper, regular blog or newsletter column.

Take the writing process seriously, but don’t be intimidated. If you can tell a great story and/or have great expertise to share with your centers of influence, then the words will eventually flow.

According to Marketing Profs copywriting guru, Daphne Gray-Grant, “A crappy first draft will not only help you write faster, but it'll also give you time to improve the quality of your writing.” Why? Because the best writing always comes from editing, “and the sooner you write your first draft, the sooner you'll be able to edit it,” added Grant.

We’ll let you in on a little secret: It doesn’t matter if you’re a do-it-yourself author or if you have hired a coach or ghost writer to help you. You need to revise, revise and revise. There is no secret formula to great writing. There are no shortcuts. It’s just a lot of trial and error and grinding it out until you start stringing together thoughts and phrases that seem to flow and make sense. You’ll recognize it when you see it, but there is no road map for getting there. By the way, you’ll never have a truly perfect FINAL draft---just progressively better versions of what you started with.

That’s why a first draft is so often called a “rough” draft—it’s directionally on the mark, but nowhere near ready for publication. But, the sooner you get your rough draft started the sooner you will feel better about yourself. You will start to feel the momentum building even if you were a perennial C student in English.

If nothing else, you should never be ashamed of a lousy first draft as it’s the first step toward solidifying your ideas and helping you write faster, more fluently and more confidently.

Blogger Bryan Hutchinson noted in a recent post (Why Your First Draft Isn’t Crap) that every book, every article and every blog post starts off with a first draft. “A first draft is special. It’s when you first pen an idea in some coherent form, it’s when you've assembled ideas from notes collected on napkins and scraps of paper or from your voice recorder,” observed Hutchinson. And it’s probably the most important step to completing your project. “The first draft is the one that matters most. No one's ever gotten to the last [draft] without the first,” added Hutchinson.


So, have the courage to commit your ideas to written form. Put them in some kind of an outline. Come up with a big, bold headline to announce the codification of your ideas. Then take that final important step……by { fill in your real name}. That’s right. Placing your byline on a published body of work—no matter how long or how short—puts you in select company in today’s increasingly anonymous online culture. You’re a thought influencer who’s not afraid to come out from behind the safety of an on-screen account and stand behind an original idea no matter how well (or not) the prose actually flows.

Again, don’t let pursuit of perfection be the enemy of progress. Even Voltaire didn’t come up with that pearl of wisdom on his first try. Go for it!

Our blog has more about this and related topics.


Voltaire, writing process is difficult, first draft sucks, Bryan Hutchinson, Daphne Gray-Grant

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