Don't tell the 8,457 kids I spoke to this year, but I don't practice what I preach.
Here's what I preach:
Don't be afraid to write something that isn't very good.
I then go on to tell them:
You can always make it better.
But you can't fix what you haven't written.
I actually stole that first line from singer/songwriter Paul Simon. I watched a documentary once that showed him teaching a class on songwriting. He told the students: "Don't be afraid to write something that isn't very good."
That has stayed with me ever since.
But the truth of the matter is that I HATE writing something that isn't very good.
It really, really, really bothers me.
In fact, it often paralyzes me.
Stops me right in my tracks.
Prevents me from moving forward.
I have struggled with this miserable phenomenon for a long time.
25 years and 16 books, to be exact.
I like for my writing to be neat and tidy and as nearly perfect as it can be while I'm working on the first draft. I go over and over and over the same sentences, paragraphs, pages without moving forward. But then I get stuck and stay there, spinning my wheels. This can be a bad, bad thing.
Critique partners often tell me to "just move forward" and "you can fix it later." I know that. I really do. But it's still hard to do.
I just don't like those s***ty first drafts that Anne Lamott talks about in her brilliant book on writing, Bird by Bird.
But then recently Avi wrote a short blog post that for some reason hammered the concept into my pea brain and made an impact.
I'm going to read that post a few hundred more times and head on back into my office to work on that s***ty first draft.
Practicing what I preach.