The First Draft of Anything is Shit

Here’s What To Do About It

As you can probably tell by the title of the article, I’m a pretty big fan of Ernest Hemingway’s famous mantra about writing.

Like any professional, he knew the first draft of anything anyone creates will be unworthy of the public’s gaze. It’s just the way it is.

Unfortunately, there are too many people who are familiar with this notion but still haven’t lived it. They continue to live their lives paralyzed by the fear of failure.

When I hear fear of failure, I assume the person is referring more to a fear of public failure. In other words, rejection.

I can’t knock anyone for avoiding rejection. It’s awkward, uncomfortable, and usually makes us feel like shit. We’re humans, after all, and we crave connection and validation from other warm-blooded people like us.

Over the years, I’ve developed a thicker skin and have become more comfortable with the idea of tough love. There are times when a loving, comforting approach is best and there are others when a swift kick in the ass is more appropriate. This one of those swift-kick-in-the-ass moments.

If you continue to avoid rejection, you will die alone, unaccomplished, and worst of all, unfulfilled.

Let this sink in for a moment. I mean, really marinade in this.

If you don’t start putting yourself and your work out there for others to enjoy, you will die with nothing to show. No legacy to leave behind for others to learn from. Is this how you want to be remembered (or forgotten)?

I didn’t think so.

I want you to do yourself a favor: stop what you’re doing right now and promise me something. Promise me you will write down one thing you’ve always wanted to do (start a blog, paint a picture, record a podcast, it can be any type of project).

Now, break it down and identify what the first draft would look like (one post, the first layer of paint, one rough episode).

Finally, I want you to create that first draft and share it with me.

That’s right, I want tangible proof. You don’t owe it to me — you owe it to yourself. I just want to give you a little nudge.

Remember, this first draft is going to be bad. In all honesty, it will probably be very bad, especially if you’ve never done this before.

The best part about a first draft is that you have nowhere to go but up. Everything you do after will be a significant improvement compared to your first stab.

After you create your first draft and share it, you’ll learn volumes about what works and what doesn’t. This is where showing will you give you so much more than telling.

Just because your first draft is bad doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try in the first place. In fact, quite the opposite. You should give the first draft everything you have so that you have a solid starting point to use for learning.

Otherwise, you’ll have to go through many more revision cycles in order to learn the same amount, and who likes working harder instead of smarter?

Remember this when you’re scared: you will never get to where you want to go if you don’t start.

Are you having trouble getting started? What does your first draft look like? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter at @williamfrazr.

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