You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs – any cook will tell you that. (Bonus points if you just thought, “But LOOK what HAPPENED to the COOK!”*)
What does that have to do with writing?
Everything. At least for first drafts and revisions.
When it comes to first drafts you have to be willing to make mistakes. If you spend too much time trying to make every little detail perfect, you’ll never get past the first page. First drafts are the place to explore thoughts and ideas, to let your pen (or fingers on the keyboard) fly. I’m not saying you shouldn’t plan – I’m a reformed pantser, myself – but you should give yourself permission to write badly. If a phrase doesn’t ring true, or your dialogue sounds clunky, don’t spend hours stressing over it, move on and keep writing.
In fact, I’ve been known to skip over things when I can’t figure out the phrasing or what needs to happen. Sometimes I’ll leave a note in caps (EM SAYS SOMETHING WITTY) or (ZANE ESCAPES…SOMEHOW) -especially during NaNo- other times I’ll just leave a blank space and give myself time to dwell on it when I’m not writing.
But this “breaking eggs” philosophy can also apply to revisions. This week Bri asked me to work on a fairly significant revision of a PB I’d shown her. In previous revisions I’d tried to hang on to my favorite phrases, which resulted in drafts that weren’t much different from the original. This time I gave myself permission to break eggs – to just write out a new draft, no matter how badly it turned out, because then at least I’d have a basis for my revision.
And I did. And it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. In fact, the new version came out quite nicely (well, okay, we’ll see what my crit partners say). And all because I let go of my fear of imperfection.
Fear can paralyze even the best writers, preventing great ideas from ever hitting the page. So next time you’re not sure whether something will work or not, let go of your fears, and give yourself permission to break a few eggs.
Do you abandon your fears when it comes to first drafts? Tell me about it in the comments.
*If you haven’t watched Clue: the Movie, go do it now. Seriously, you don’t know what you’re missing.