The Perfect 1st Draft

Already as I have begun writing the first draft, the doubts have begun to creep in. Is there too much exposition? Or maybe not enough? I’m not giving enough description…or is there an overwhelming amount already?

These doubts can lead to two great big distractions that will keep you from ever finishing that first draft:

  1. Stop. Go back. Edit. Keep editing. Just edit the crap out of that first scene and make sure it is perfect before you move forward. Will it ever be perfect? If this scene isn’t perfect, what’s the point in writing the rest?
  2. Stop. Give up. You aren’t good enough. Or this story just isn’t working. Find a new story. Stop. Is this one not good either? Or is it me? Will I never be able to find the perfect story?

I’ve given in to both of these distractions in the past, and they both tell the same HUGE lie about my stories and my abilities: your first draft must be perfect. Who ever did something perfectly their first try? I’ll give you a few seconds to think about it. Let me know when you realize it’s no one ever. I googled it for you.

If I’ve found one thing to be true about being a writer, it is that the need for perfection is an ugly, nasty thing. Especially during your very first draft. We as humans are quite literally incapable of being perfect. (I googled that one too but you get the point.) This need to be perfect, to write perfect, to create the perfect plot or whatever it may be for you, stems from the lie that you can be perfect. Because, as we have mentioned, you can’t be.

So, even in the midst of my current draft, and having faced down this lie in every previous draft I have written, I have to remind myself to let go of the need to be perfect. In letting go of this need, I find such freedom and joy in writing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. As Ted Dekker says, story is a sandcastle on the beach. It is a way that we get to imitate our Heavenly Father, the creator of everything ever. So build, play, have fun, enjoy the process. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

[Of course, once it’s built, you can start to make it better, you can invite others to help you, because you have a whoel sandcastle now, instead of just a pile of sand on a beach of sand, but that’s beside the point for today.]

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