Text: The First Draft is the Ugliest

Cartoon showing two cat silhouettes sitting outside at night. Above them, lightning bugs have written out "haapy catturday" in the sky. One cat says "Fireflies r notoriously bad spellrs."

Consider this skywriting the fireflies’ first draft.

If one is the loneliest number, the first draft is the ugliest draft. The end. There’s no way around it. If you can accept that reality, carry on. If you can’t, writing will be an ever-frustrating task. You will struggle to find joy in doing the work.

Consider the truth a sort of Jedi mind trick. It frees you from having to write something “golden” every time you come to the page. The pressure eases. You can write terribly. You can use cliches and jargon and run-on sentences. Don’t worry about any of it. You can – and should – revise and edit later.

Let the words fill the page. If no words come, use a writing exercise. Steal a line from someone (cited, of course). Get your writing muscles working, and your mind will follow suit. It will start to make connections.

Stop waiting to “feel” like writing and do the hard work of writing. Feelings more often follow actions rather than the other way around. Waiting to feel like writing is the same thing as waiting for inspiration. Neither typically happen unless you’re working.

Don’t be afraid of the horrible, no-good words. At least you have words. That’s an accomplishment. Many give up before even getting that far. You didn’t. You have an ugly first draft.

Now get to work on the second. It’ll still be ugly but much less so than the first.