One of my favorite essays on writing is “Sh*tty First Drafts” by Anne Lamott.
Lamott’s thesis is this: All first drafts suck, so get it over already. (Really. That’s about her style.)
The point is to dismiss the myth that says you can write something amazing on your first attempt. Or that you should even try.
It takes all the mysticism out of writing something that could be considered a stroke of pure genius.
Most writers want to be geniuses
There’s no question about that. They want to be remembered for their wisdom and wit.
But very few believe something as dull as a drawn-out, disciplined process is what will get them there.
Here’s the thing, though: I’m learning that genius is something very simple. Simple. But not easy.
Do we remark at the pithy sayings of Confucius, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Jesus because they’re long and exhaustive? Or because they’re short and profound?
I think it’s the latter.
How to get your words remembered
History proves that those remembered for their words are not always the most verbose. Think of every famous movie line, political speech, and quote you’ve ever heard.
Why did they stick with you? Was it because of the length of the content? Usually not. Rather, it’s often because of the punch of their words.
Great communicators drive home their point in the most concise, challenging way possible. And they get rid of anything that interferes with that message.
I want to be that kind of writer.
And the only way to do it is to write a terrible first draft.
Where to begin
You can’t edit anything until you have a first draft. And let’s face it: a lot of “genius” stuff happens in the editing process.
You might have a nugget of something that was inspired at 3am. But what will take it from inspired to ready to ship?
Most successful writers have to go through a tedious process of shaping their content to get something worth sharing. How do they do this? They write every day. They share their work with a close friend. They edit, tweak, and ship.
So, you need to commit to writing something — anything — today. Maybe it’s just a sentence or title. But get it on paper (or screen). Write it just to get it out. Right. Now.
Then, start slicing.
The bottom line is this: write less, not more.
Slicing down your fluff to the core essentials is how you get to genius.
So what’re you waiting for?
Recommended reading: How Good is Your First Draft?