On February 24th, I started writing the first draft of my first novel. This isn’t the first time I’ve started the first draft of my so-called first novel. I’ve developed–and perfected–a start/stop method of writing, where I plan and plan and plan, then after spending waayyyy too much time in the planning phase, I will finally take the plunge and start writing the opening scene.
During the summer, I wrote three or four opening scenes and decided they sucked. I went back to my outline and delved a little deeper, and again got too comfortable staying in the planning phase. Then I got to thinking about what exactly was stifling my progress. Why the hell can’t I just sit down and start writing? Why can’t I get it right???
I reminded myself that I’m a novel-writing newbie. It’s not going to be easy. But realizing that wasn’t enough to get me writing that first scene again. So I turned to my Kindle copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and read the chapters entitled Shitty First Drafts and Perfectionism. I read them over several times, highlighting things that really resonated with me, such as
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.
The first draft is the down draft–you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft–you fix it up.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.
That last statement was my Aha moment. My pursuit of perfectionism was holding me back from starting the first draft. I kept starting and stopping because what I was writing was not perfect.
From that moment I said screw it. Enough with the planning. Enough with the stalling and waiting for perfect prose to flow through my fingers. I’m going to write the shittiest first draft ever written.
So I sat down that day and I started typing, and believe it or not the story started to flow. It’s clunky and full of holes, but I let go of trying to be perfect and allowed my self to start writing my shitty draft, which I will continue to work on until I reach the end.