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Thank Gawd for Ann Lamott
👉 warning - mild swearing inside!
Lamott not Lamont. Damn you autocorrect (and useless brain).
Bird By Bird is a wonderful guide to writing non-fiction. And it’s laugh-out-loud funny too.
Perhaps not as laugh-out-loud funny as Down with Skool, but that might just be me.
In Bird By Bird, Lamott introduces the idea of the “shitty first draft”. That your goal in writing is to get something - anything - down on paper so you can then start improving it.
It’s based on the real-world observation that very often we just don’t manage to get anything written because we’re far too focused on making it good.
My experience is that I end up constantly rewriting the first paragraph or so aiming to get my email or article off to a perfect start.
But that desire for a good start means I often don’t get started at all.
Lamott gives us permission to write a first draft that isn’t all that good. In fact, she says that shouldn’t be. Our focus should be on dumping our thoughts onto paper so we can then refine them. Trying to write something good as a first draft will roadblock you into producing almost nothing.
As she says:
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.
Even if you’re writing an email that’s going out to thousands of people in a few minutes, write that first draft like you’re the only person in the world who’s going to read it.
In my case I need to get a so-so version of the whole email written rather than agonising over the first paragraph. Because it’s only when I can see the whole thing that I can get that first paragraph right.
You’ve just got your ideas out no matter how ugly.
Then fix ‘em for version 2. And polish them for version 3.
Quick tip: you almost never need version 3 for emails. Unpolished version 2 is enough,
If you’re struggling to write something good, write something crap instead. Then make it good.
And I’m sure the goriller of 3B would approve.
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