First drafts always get such a bad rep — Sh*tty first draft. A vomit draft. Bad. Crappy. Terrible. Just google “first draft quotes” and you’ll see so many writers and authors talking about first drafts in this way.
I get that a first draft will never be perfect. But is a final draft ever perfect?
And more to the point: Does not being perfect mean they have to be so terrible that we need to describe first drafts in this way?
I’ve always loved writing a first draft. I loved it before I came across any of these statements and even after I was taught that this was simply the way it was.
My experience of a first draft has always been so much more than ‘this is garbage.’ Not because I’m a ‘gifted’ or ‘talented’ writer (another myth to tackle for another day).
But because to me, a first draft is full of possibility.
A first draft is where you meet new characters and discover what haunts them. It’s where you write words, one after another after another, and you don’t know where they came from and where they will lead you. It’s where scenes show up on the page and characters do things and say things that you didn’t plan for them.
The experience is the same even if you’re writing memoir or creative non-fiction. Old memories resurface. You remember details that you thought you had forgotten. New insights and reflections reveal themselves to you. Connections form where they didn’t exist before.
None of this can happen unless you write that first draft, unless you sit down and say to yourself: Write whatever is coming up, and just keep going.
A first draft will always needs to go through a process of revision, and sometimes that process can be long and circuitous. But we can appreciate that first drafts are works-in-progress without resorting to labelling them as trash.
There might be many scenes and sentences in that first draft that don’t make it to the final draft. But that’s okay, because it’s that first draft that got you there.
You know that saying, the journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step? It’s the same with writing.
Without a first draft, there is no story, there is no final draft, there is no book.
Every book that you love started out as a first draft. A first draft where the writer, even if they thought it was terrible, was able to recognize its potential and saw all the beautiful bits they could carry into future drafts, into the book that you now hold in your hands.
So honour your first drafts. Infuse the process of writing them with gratitude and awe. Your writing experience will be so much more joyful because of it.
Writing prompts are the perfect way to generate new first drafts. Grab a copy of “30 Writing Prompts To Refresh Your Writing Life” and start writing the stories you’ve always wanted to tell.