Avoid the Perfect First Draft

July 12, 2017 by Evan Braun

Most writers don’t just want to write, they want to write well. Sometimes this means writing a sentence, then scrubbing it out and starting again, looking up some words in a thesaurus, then rewriting some more… and then, maybe, moving on to the next sentence.

On the surface, this sounds like a virtuous process. Working so meticulously means that you’re dogged and persistent, right? That you’re committed to perfecting your craft?

Perhaps. More than anything, though, it means you’re not likely to get very much done. And no matter how perfect a piece of writing is, if it takes too long to get written, the whole process is bound to get stalled at square one.

Perfectionists are likely going to hate this post—or at least find it very challenging. I used to be one of those people. (Well, I still am one, but I have to fight the instinct.) Essentially, my advice today boils down to this: don’t be afraid to write imperfectly.

To be a bit more crass, you could say it this way: don’t be afraid to write badly.

At first blush, this may not seem logical, but I assure you that it’s not only logical, it’s necessary. As a writer, you can’t always be at your best, and yet you can’t wait around for the stars to align in order to get your writing done. Indeed, you need to cultivate the ability to write anywhere, anytime. And this means that sometimes you need to write when you’re not “feeling it.” The muse has gone on vacation someplace and you don’t know when it’s coming back. That’s okay.

You can always take bad writing and polish it into good writing. But you can’t take non-existent writing and polish it into good writing. And coming up with polished writing the first time is really inefficient. Not only that, but it stifles a person’s creative juices.

Think of your writing output like a faucet. You have an empty glass and a water faucet. Do you want to drip-drip-drip water into that glass, making sure every drop is pure and clean? Or do you just turn the faucet to full blast and fill the glass right to the top as fast as you can? I’ll go out on a limb and say that you want the water to flow.

Heck, if you suspect the water isn’t clean, you can always boil it later.

It’s a wonderful experience to be in the creative flow, that place where words pour out through the tips of your fingers faster than you can think of them. And the only way to kickstart that process is to turn on the tap and not get too worked up if the water comes out a little bit cloudy.

About this Contributor

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Evan Braun is a full-time author and editor. He has authored three novels, the first of which, The Book of Creation, was shortlisted in two categories at the 2012 Word Awards. He has released two sequels, The City of Darkness (2013) and The Law of Radiance (2015), completing the series. As a professional editor, Braun has seven years of experience working with Word Alive Press authors. He is also a regular contributor at The Fictorians, a popular writing blog.