Why Our First Drafts Are So Important

By on March 11, 2020

We’ve all heard that alleged quote from Earnest Hemingway that goes, “the first draft of anything is sh*t.” While it’s a kind of tongue-in-cheek, emphasizing that even the most celebrated writers won’t write their best work first time, it is essential to remember how vital first drafts are. 

Don't dismiss your first drafts

Dismissing them as rubbish can be dangerous. Your first draft isn’t unless. It teaches you an incredible amount and is the basis from which truly inspiring, exciting works of writing can grow. It’s true that the more we tell ourselves something, the more we’ll believe it. So continuing to ingrain the “your first draft will suck” mentality into every impressionable young writer’s skull is arguably no longer the best way forward.

Remember, writing is tough!

Writing a book is incredibly difficult, and the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into making one are substantial. By continuing to buy into the negativity surrounding first drafts, we could be doing ourselves and other writers a massive disservice. 

Think about it this way; if we keep telling ourselves something we are investing lots of time into and making lots of sacrifices for will inevitably turn out to be rubbish, we start to devalue it. Doing so will have a knock-on effect in terms of our motivation, our dedication, and even our effort. If there is nothing we can do to escape the inevitability of a useless first draft, why bother trying very hard in the first place? 

Perfection is not the aim

Yes, your first draft might not be perfect, but it doesn’t mean there are not parts of it that are good, great even, and that contains a critical building block from which you can move forward. Lots of writers throw their first drafts straight into the trash, and this could well be a mistake. Giving yourself distance and perspective, even if you think your first draft is awful, can mean you come back to it with a fresh set of eyes, and find those little glimmers of brilliance that are worth holding onto. 

Be kind to yourself and your first drafts!

Telling ourselves our first drafts are worthless over and over again becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we believe it, the less likely that first draft will be ay good, and even if it is, we might not be able to see it. Words such as useless, worthless, and yes, even “sh*t” hold very little helpful emotional value. In fact, when used repeatedly, it’s no wonder they knock our confidence and ability to believe in ourselves as writers. 

Think about it this way. Your first draft is the most important thing you’ll ever write.

A house can’t be built without foundation, and that’s exactly what a first draft is. It’s the structure, the bricks, and mortar. It might be just a shell - an outline that you can come back to and decorate the hell out of later, but without it, you’ve got nothing at all. 

The first draft is the very start of your journey, it’s unique and special, and the sooner you get into that state of mind, the more energy and focus you’ll have to write the best version of it you possibly can! So while no one can ever doubt that Hemingway was a genius writer himself, perhaps this quote from Michael Lee is one that we should consider with higher regard: “The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.”

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start writing those first drafts, it’s the most important thing you can do.

So now you know all about why first drafts are important, why not learn how to write a good one?!

bethany cadman
Bethany Cadman - bethanycadman.co.uk

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