May 14

I recently did an exercise that both depressed me and encouraged me at the same time. I decided to take a look at my first drafts of each of my books and compare them with the final, published manuscript. My key takeaways:

►My first drafts are pretty awful.

►The way in which I conveyed the most resonant ideas in each

of my books appeared through revision,notin the first draft.

►I can clearly see moments when I was struggling vs. when

things were flowing clearly. I struggled more than I flowed.

It was a pretty depressing exercise because I—probably like you— look back with pride on my finished work and sometimes forget the struggle involved in getting it to that place. I was also encouraged because I realized that I don’t need to fret when a draft doesn’t “sing” to me ini- tially. It willeventually, after a lot of work and revision.

Your goal with any project is to simply get to a first draft that can be revised, augmented, and adapted into its final form. The struggle is getting to that draft. As prolific writer Joyce Carol Oates once quipped, “Getting the first draft finished is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor.” It’s not glamorous, but it’s the most important milestone in your work.

Your goal with any project is to simply get to the first draft, which can then be revised.


is there a project right now that just needs you to buckle down and get to a first draft, whatever it takes?

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