Ten Commandments for First Drafts

One of the biggest culprits of blocks -- and something I've spent a lot of time addressing myself (and will continue to write about no doubt!) is perfectionism. Or, to misquote a famous bug spray commercial, it kills drafts dead.

I'll have more to say about this in the future, no doubt, but for now I want to offer 10 tips for avoiding the scourge of perfectionism as you go to write.

H/T to Laraine Herring for these:

1) Don’t worry about publication. It's way too early!

2) Don’t worry about what your mom, pop, brother, sister, dog, or ex-wife thinks of what you've written. Check out this trove of memoir-related essays for perspective. 

3) Don’t be rigid about direction. Allow for the unexpected. (Joan Didion: "It tells you. You don't tell it.")

4) Don’t question what characters show up. Follow them. Some are tricksters. Some are the real deal. You can’t know who is who if you dismiss them too quickly.

5) Don’t forget that your story knows more than you do right now. Trust it.

6) Don't rewrite the first paragraph or get bogged down in the middle. A crappy first draft is a real first draft.

7) Whether you’re an outliner or a freewriter for the first step of the writing process, avoid being too attached to what you’re putting down. It will change. It’s supposed to.

8) Don’t get distracted by something newer and shinier when you feel lost. You’re supposed to feel lost. Write your way out of the trees.

9) Avoid believing you’re the sole dictator of the story’s direction. There’s more at play in the creative process than you can consciously control. Let the story help you tell it.

10) Don’t believe it’s the final draft. When you’re done, set that draft aside. Go for a walk. Wait awhile, and then begin revising.