mwotw shitty first draft

Shitty First Draft

“Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.”

Anne Lamott

A blank page can be terrifying.

AI is helping, maybe, but still: Getting started might be the hardest part of writing.

Doesn’t matter WHAT you’re writing, either.

A letter, a website, a blog post, your weekly email newsletter (you have one of those too, right?)

It all has to start somewhere. 

Here’s a trick I learned long ago from the wonderful writer Anne Lamott: Let it be awful at first.

She calls it the “Shitty First Draft:”

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. 

You need to start somewhere.

Start by getting something — anything — down on paper.”  

Let the introduction be a bunch of throat-clearing garbage.

Let the conclusion make no sense. 

Let yourself realize halfway through you have no idea where you’re going.

Let it suck.

Let it really, really suck.

It’s ok, because YOU’RE DOING IT!!

More from Anne:

“The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. 

You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page.”

This is kind of like Morning Pages, and why that particular puking out of content is such good practice for writing or other creativity.

This is also why the trick of using TK when there’s a missing fact was so helpful to me. 

Don’t let your perfectionism and your nasty inner critic keep you from starting.

The first draft doesn’t need to be good.

With endless permission,


PS – For some kinds of writing, taking some time BEFORE the Shitty First Draft to get clear on your intentions can help. 

  • Who are you writing for? 
  • What do you want them to do, think, and feel after they read it? 

Write that down, then write a terrible draft. And if those questions are keeping you from starting, ditch them. Just start.

This post was originally sent as an email to the Magic Words of the Week newsletter list. Every week, I share reflections on a word, quote, or phrase I think will help you thrive in your life’s work.

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