When I was in college, I was lucky enough to have a really amazing professor for freshman English 101.
She wasn’t much older than us. She wore a leather jacket, and she challenged us to write about the things that really matter to us and that matter in this world.
It was kind of like Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds. Y’know, without all the gun violence. And Coolio rapping in the background.
Ok, so it probably would have been cooler with Coolio rapping in the background. But she was still pretty awesome.
One of the first things that she taught us when we were about to start writing our first position papers, was this idea of the “$hitty First Draft.” (Isn’t it amazing how just replacing a letter with a dollar sign somehow makes it less offensive?? Kind of like Ke$ha. No? Oh ok….we’ll just call them SFD’s from here on out then just to be safe).
The idea of SFD’s comes from writer, Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. And it, much like the idea of “Win the Day,” is a principle that relies on grace, not perfection. From Lamott:
“Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers, writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially, and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts. All right, one of them does, but we do not like her very much.”
What I love about the idea of SFD’s is that it takes away from us our number one, we polled a 100 people, survey says, best excuse for not doing the things we know that we should be doing: the idea that if it’s not perfect, we shouldn’t be doing it yet.
Oh I’ve been meaning to work on my brand, but I don’t know what color would be best so I haven’t started yet.
Oh I really want to take that planner out to lunch, but my work isn’t quite where I want it to be yet so I haven’t called her.
Oh I really want a more personal about page, but I don’t know what to write so I haven’t sat down & tried yet
I heard this quote once that I remind myself of often: Perfection is the highest form of Procrastination.
So many times, I let myself off the hook in the name of being a perfectionist. I congratulate myself on the very high standards that I hold myself to. I chalk it up to my type A, over-achiever personality. But in reality what I’m really doing is patting myself on the back for staying stuck exactly where I am.
The idea of SFD’s gets rid of all that for me. It says nobody does it perfect the first time. So why should you be any different? And indeed, going through the process and the “this is not at all what it should be yet, but at least it’s one step closer” is the only thing that will ever get you there.
And just that fact…just knowing that you can write that blog post, or put together a first mock up of the new brand, or open up the website software, or do your first video blog, or put together your first styled shoot, or construct that email to that planner, or write that first version of the script for your promo video you’ve been meaning to do….and it doesn’t. have. to. be. perfect. yet. Just knowing that, suddenly the weight of the world is lifted from our shoulders. The fog parts. The curtain is pulled back.
And we can get down to getting to work.
So whatever it is that you know you should be working on today….that thing that makes your heart race….and scares you more than just a little…
My hope is that you will sit down and write a really $hitty First Draft of it today.
Go get it,