The First Draft

  After too much time and about fifty recommendations, I’m finally reading the quintessential book for writers, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. I’ll probably post more on the book as I read sections I find particularly relevant, but today is all about the first draft. In her book, Lamott writes about how the first draft is always shitty. Even professional, successful writers write bad first drafts. Here’s a quote from her book that I thought summed it up perfectly:

“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something – anything – down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft – you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft – you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”

One of the traps I fell into frequently when I first began writing, and which ties into Lamott’s subsequent chapter on Perfectionism, is that I would spend hours writing and rewriting the same five pages until I became so frustrated that I wouldn’t want to make the time to write. It’s not as bad now, but I still find myself getting caught up in my own thoughts before I even sit down at my computer trying to work out every detail. Chasing windmills. Just sit down and type. What you end up with will be bad. If you’re lucky, you’ll even realize it’s bad and begin crafting your second draft before you subject your close friends and family to the horrors of having to read it.

Happy writing! πŸ™‚


  1. I can so relate πŸ™‚ My first draft for Minnie Moo The Extraordinary Adventures of an Ordinary Cat was woeful. Now into Love in the Vines – it’s the same experience. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love that book! When I read it, it was as if Anne came for a visit, stayed by my desk as I wrote, and ate with the family at dinner time.

  3. I shall search out that book thanks (to go along with my many writing ‘help’ books). I am terrible for getting starting due to the fear of writing badly. It is so true…you just need to get that first draft down.
    Thanks for reminding me πŸ™‚

    • I heard another quote before that said, “If writing were easy, everyone would do it.” I have to remind myself that it takes work and practice to get better just like with everything else. Good luck with your book, I’d love to hear about your progress with it!

  4. Haha wow, this post REALLY helped me! I’m writing a book and while I have my first draft done, I know that it is awful. Right now I’m starting in on the second draft and I’m feelings way better about it. Great post!

    • Thanks! Glad the post helped you. It’s easy for me to get caught up in how utterly horrible my first drafts are rather than making time to just get the words down and worry about revisions later. Good luck with your second draft! πŸ™‚

  5. Thanks, Sam, this really helps! x

  6. It’s been awhile since I read Bird by Bird, but this makes me want to go back and read it again. Yes, first drafts are a mess. Mine include notes to myself like “figure out a better way to say this” or “insert something interesting here.”

  7. I haven’t read this book yet. I’ve been meaning to read more resource books.

    I always strive to get something down, whether it’s on my computer, Alphasmart, handwritten pages that later get typed…yes, it’s a mess.

  8. Medeia Sharif :

    You’re one of the winners of my blogiversary giveaway. Congratulations.

    That’s so great! Thanks, Medeia! πŸ™‚

  9. I sent you an email.


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