Just because something is a cliche doesn’t mean there isn’t a strong element of truth to it. Whether you’re thinking of eating an elephant or making a 10,000-mile journey, it really only matters that you make a start.
The power of the SFD
If you’re not sure what to write about, sometimes it’s best to just write something.
Just write and don’t edit as you go. Just type what you can, as it comes. And then leave it.
This is the SFD, the shitty first draft. It’s a technical term in the writing world, and probably every discipline has its own version. Think of it as the beta approach that Google takes to everything.
Why the SFD works
As with exercise, the hardest thing sometimes is just getting going. Once you do, no matter how slowly you run, how light the weights you lift or the quality of the words you write, you’ve got going.
You’ve got momentum.
Once you’ve got some momentum, it’s easier to keep going. Giving yourself the okay to write rubbish gives you that momentum. And the quality of what you write might not actually be rubbish, you’re just taking some of the pressure off.
Don’t just publish the SFD
Once your momentum has got you going, don’t let it run away with you and just hit publish at the end of it. Still do all the usual things like rereading it, spell-checking it and everything else you’d do with a more considered post.
Regret tends to come from haste.
But if you come back to it, even after a short break, give it a polish and then publish, you might be surprised at how happy you are with what you’ve written. Or it might spark a better idea for some of it, or even all of it. But the SFD gets you to the MISD (much improved second draft).
Which might even be the final one.
Momentum can start with something small
Even if you only get three sentence down, that short burst can be enough to get the synapses firing. It’s a catalyst.
And then the next time you feel a bit stuck, you might remember how just writing three sentences got you going. You might even tell yourself you’re only going to write three sentences. Don’t allow yourself any more than that.
Unless the muse takes you.
But sometimes the permission to just write rubbish, or only write a small amount is enough to get us over the starting line. Nothing good can happen if you don’t take that very first step.
The shitty first draft just might be the start of the best thing you ever write.