Hi, Al Bargen here. I am just putting the finishing touches on my next book. It’s at times like these that I reflect on what I had envisioned the project would be when completed. Then I contemplate all the pitfalls along the way, the pitfalls of procrastination, and of editing your work before it’s time to edit. This is a challenge for most writers and this is why I write about it today.
There is an ancient Chinese proverb “The journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step”. Your first step as a writer is getting the first draft done. It may be daunting, and there are a million voices in your head telling you why it’s not good enough or you should stop in the middle and try to fix it. Ignore it all and finish the draft.
Getting your first draft done is taking the leap. You can’t falter when you take the leap or you may slip and hurt yourself. The best thing to do is to fly through it and get it out there. A coach of mine used to say “Version one is better than version none.” The first draft will reveal a lot about yourself and will help you craft your writing career.
This is a very big first step, and for many writers it’s one they stick on for years. Writers block usually happens a lot here, and so does the crime of trying to edit an unfinished draft. Don’t let that be you. It takes courage and confidence to spend days and weeks writing without editing a thing. Don’t edit your work until the first draft is done. When it’s done you can rejoice, because you would have climbed over the first hurdle.
The most important thing to do while you’re writing your first draft is to let the flow happen naturally. This means you are not thinking about what you’re writing, it’s just pouring out. You are not trying to get it right, or edit it as you go. You ignore spelling mistakes, sentence structure and anything else. The only thing you focus on is the creative flow.
If you have trouble getting into the flow, then practice some flow exercises before you write. This is akin to stretching before a workout or warming up before a run. A good flow exercise is hypnotic writing. This is where you write whatever you are thinking in the moment. Someone with writers block may start writing “I have writers block, I don’t know what to write, I am completely lost, I have no idea what to write, it’s like, I don’t know, there is no way to know”, or whatever might be in your head. As you start to write this way, with no sentence structure, no punctuation and no control, your brain will learn to get into a flow.
Even someone with writers block can write about having writers block in order to overcome it. The problem is that writers try to think or analyze their writing either before it’s on the page or after it’s on the page. The trick is to not analyze at all, and just let the creative juice flow out onto the paper. When your first draft is done, then its time to analyze and craft it into a masterpiece.
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