September 24, 2012

Pancake Session: $hitty First Drafts

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,

  1. Abby Grace

    This post is AWESOME. Emily Ley sells prints of a piece of wall art that say "I will hold myself to a standard of grace, not perfection," and this just reinforces that all over again. Love love love this!

  2. Jen O

    Love this post, Mary. I totally agree "perfection is the highest form of procratination." I’ve learned that I need many SFD’s for all aspects of my business. We all just need to start somewhere and revise, revise, revise. Even in the end, it may not be perfect. But it’s out there and it’s done to the best of my ability. Thanks for the reminder and challenge!

  3. Stacey Windsor

    Thank you for this today Mary! After your post about Lauren last week, I gave myself this kick in the butt, and today my updated, but not perfect blog is going back live with content for the first time in two months. No more living in fear of failing. Sometimes we all just need a little push :)

  4. Kari Jeanne

    Amazing. Love this post – a lot.

  5. Justine Cirullo

    whoa. to say that this hits home would be an incredible understatement! i have such a fear of not getting it perfect the first time that i let that fear cripple me from doing anything at all… and then find myself frustrated with the feeling of being stuck. thank you thank you for sharing this. totally what the Lord is working on in my heart right now and to grateful to you for writing this for me to read.

  6. Nancy Barnhart

    Love this!

  7. Natalie

    at facebook, we have a saying: done is better than perfect. i have a poster of it and i use it to remind me of this very concept. very well-said, and a good reminder to get started on my novel. :)

  8. Emilia Jane

    Oh my god yes!!!!!! Thank you Mary.

  9. Rici

    Thank you MARY!!! You are soo awesome! I think I need to oder one of the books mentioned! You are so great and right! ~ Saluti.

  10. Jenn

    Thank you, Mary. I am going to start my SFD now. :)

  11. Kristen

    JUST read this with my writing class last week….there was a huge, palpable sigh of relief when I assigned a SFD for class this week! Just get it out! TFS!

  12. Vanessa Chupp

    Mary! Do you seriously have a way to read my thoughts?! Haha it seems every post lately has totally hit home with an issue I’m finding myself in that VERY day. You have such a gift for writing (and of course photography). You just bless my life and I am so thankful for you!!

  13. Vanessa Chupp

    Mary! Do you seriously have a way to read my thoughts?! Haha it seems every post lately has totally hit home with an issue I’m finding myself in that VERY day. You have such a gift for writing (and of course photography). You just bless my life and I am so thankful for you!!

  14. Lelia

    Oh wow! Thank you for this post. I’ve never thought of it that way and it is 100% the way I am. I am now off to make a SFD. Thank you for that. I think I need to print this out and hang it on my wall.

  15. ashley barnett

    Cheers to SFDs!!! :)

  16. GrandmaIna

    This is a really important idea. I wish everyone could read this–it’s a great help. As soon as you cease trying to be perfect, you can accomplish a lot being just great!

  17. Teressa Rerras

    Thank you for the inspiration!

  18. Jil

    boy did i need to read this today! i have been meaning to finally send my law review article to journals … but just can’t convince myself that it’s good enough to send out. THANK YOU for the inspiration!!

  19. Trude

    Amen! It reminds me of a quote I found via Pinterest that really stuck with me: "The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel." -Steve Furtick. Basically, you just never know how much work it took someone to get there/show something! So just don’t worry about them and get started already!

  20. Erin Schrad

    I need to print this out and tape it to my bathroom mirror. I let perfectionism get the better of me… a lot. I know in my head it comes from a place of insecurity… and the fact that every small error I make seems to get pointed out! (Seriously?! Give a girl a break!)

    I feel like I need to write "Done is better than perfect." on the chalkboard a hundred times!

  21. Renee

    Love this post Mary!!

  22. heather

    so good Mary! Thanks for the encouragement :)

comments & responses

Add a Comment