Write Less, Not More: How to Slice and DicePosted: July 1, 2010
One of my favorite essays on writing is “Shitty First Drafts” by Anne Lamott.
Lamott’s thesis is this: All first drafts suck, so get it over already. (Really. That’s about her style, too.)
The point is to dismiss the myth that you can write something amazing on your first attempt, or that you should even try. It takes all the mysticism out of writing something that could be considered a stroke of pure genius — without even trying.
Most creatives want to be geniuses. There’s no question about that. But very few want to believe that something as dull as a drawn-out, disciplined process is what will get them there.
Personally, I’m learning that genius is something very simple. Do we remark at the pithy sayings of Confucius, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and even Jesus — because they’re long and exhaustive or because they’re short and profound?
I want to be that kind of writer.
And the only way to do it is to write a “shitty first draft.” You see, you can’t edit anything until you have a first draft. And let’s face it: a lot of “genius” stuff happens in the editing process.
You might have a nugget of something that was inspired at 3am, but most successful writers I know have to go through the long and tedious process to get anything worth sharing.
So, commit to writing something — anything — right now. Write it just to get it out. Maybe it’s just a sentence or a title. But get it on paper (or on screen). Right. Now.
And then, start slicing and dicing. (Okay, so I was going to include how to actually slice and dice, as the title indicated, but that part was boring, so I cut it.)