I’m working on a novel, Dances With Crazy, for NaNoWriMo (You can follow my journey here), and I’m 10,009 words in. Those 10,009 words are very rough, they make up what Anne Lamott in Bird By Bird called a “shitty first draft.” Giving yourself permission to write a less than stellar first draft is perhaps the most important thing you can do in order to boost your productive writing time.

Just Get Words Down on Paper

It doesn’t matter if those words will wind up in your final draft or not. But if you’re editing while you’re writing, you’ll take much longer to finish your project than you would if you wrote the first draft straight through. When you already have the words down, it becomes much easier to edit those words and move them around on the page. Whenever you write anything, your first goal should be to get as many words down on paper as possible.

Don’t Edit, Don’t Delete!

Now is not the time to perfect what you’re trying to say. Don’t go back and fix the spelling error; don’t go back and delete those extraneous words. Not yet anyway. Wait until you write the last sentence of your piece before you start the editing process. Remember, it’s a completely separate step in the writing process.

Set a Timer

If you have to, set a timer and race it while you write. This is especially handy if you’re not like me, and you don’t have a built-in toddler timer who will start eating the paint instead of putting it on the paper if you take too long writing your shitty first draft. See what you can lay down in 10 minutes.

Give Yourself Permission to Make it Terrible!

Seriously, you’re not trying to write the best thing that’s ever been written right now. In fact, the crappier the draft, the better. That way, you’re not too attached to it when it’s time to edit. Sometimes, the simple act of saying “It’s okay. I’m going to write a messed up, horrible first draft” is all the gas you need to get it done.

If you write, and you haven’t yet read Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, I strongly recommend it. While this is one of my favorite pieces of advice coming from the book, there is a lot of good information in the book. You can purchase it here. (Affiliate Link)

So tell me, do you give yourself permission to write a terrible first draft when you sit down to write?