Permission to Write that Horrible First Draft

We’ve have led dozens of writing workshops over the past 10+ years. One of the workshops was on “the art of revision” for creative writing projects.

We were surprised to learn that some writers assumed that if their first draft was unsatisfactory, they needed to throw it out and start over with a different piece of writing. These writers felt liberated when they found out that very famous authors always went through multiple drafts of their work before they got that final draft that everyone now knows as a masterpiece of literature.

You may not think of your blog post or newsletter article as a “potential masterpiece” of literature, but it should relieve you to know that no one ever writes something perfectly the first time they put pen to paper (or fingers to computer keyboard).

Even when we write for clients, we never assume the first draft will be absolutely perfect. We always expect comments on the first version – especially if the client just gives us a suggested title and three “example articles” that have already been published on the subject.

If you find it difficult to sit and face the blank page, here are a few tricks we use for creating blog posts or newsletter articles:

1. Create an Outline or Structure

If you already have somewhat of an idea of what you want to write about, create a sample structure for it. Here’s an example of what one might look like:

  • Introduction/Controversial statement (150 words)
  • Content Section 1 Title (10-15 words)
  • Content Section 1 Text (250-300 words)
  • Content Section 2 Title (10-15 words)
  • Content Section 2 Text (250-300 words)
  • Content Section 3 Title (10-15 words)
  • Content Section 3 Text (250-300 words)
  • Conclusion (150-200 words)

2. Freewrite until your topic finds you

Sometimes, you just don’t know what you want to write about. In this case, you can use the “freewriting method” to just start talking about something that inspires you or something that bothers you. Set a time and just start writing. Keep writing until the time is up. Maybe this won’t work for you every time you do it, but you might get one sentence that sparks an idea for a future post. If you use a journal to capture your thoughts, be sure to fold down the corner of the pages where you have notes you want to return to.

3. Overwrite it first

This goes back to what we said at the beginning of this article: just get all your thoughts out on paper. You can go back to it later and revise. You may cut your draft in half by the time you’re finished, but that’s okay.

You can check out this post about how to generate a continuous supply of ideas for your blog posts.