One of the things that’s been joyously freeing about my writing program is that we’re given permission to do something important: Write badly.
In order to create a sculpture, you have to start with a big block of clay, or a stone, or a chunk of wood. At first, you’re just hacking pieces away and getting it into the general shape. Over time, you add more details and then begin to polish it up.
In the beginning… Make a colossal, unapologetic mess. Write disconnected chunks of text and snippets of conversation. Let characters emerge without worrying too much about how they fit. Write cringe-inducing dialogue and scenes dripping with cliches. Just let the story emerge.
Once it’s emerged… Put it into some sort of order, know your characters and why they exist, but let the mistakes and gaps and bad dialogue and cliches stand. Just make a thing that has a beginning, middle, and end.
Then! Then you start cleaning it up. Then you start polishing. Then you pull out the sharper tools in your box and make your rough thing into something more artful.
For me, a first draft is an emergence. I have a pretty good grasp on my story, but it’s still revealing things to me. It’s still whispering its small confessions, and I’m still exploring all the different pieces of it.
Free yourself from expectations and pressures. Give yourself permission to be messy, and most importantly – write badly. Write badly as hard and painfully and truthfully as you can.
The mess comes first. The art comes later.