Shitty First Drafts

We all know how to write by first creating an outline and then filling in the remaining details later. However, a few years ago, I took a writing class and was introduced to the essay “Shitty First Drafts”, by Anne Lamotte. Ann Lamotte is a professional novelist and non-fiction author, and “Shitty First Drafts” is about the way she forces herself to start a new project by just beginning to write. Using this approach, her first drafts are terrible (hence the essay’s title), but since she does not show them to anyone, it doesn’t matter. The main purpose of her first drafts are to help her discover what she wants to say, and she finds that her first drafts are a necessary step in the process for creating work that she will eventually be proud of. When I am struggling to figure out what I want to communicate, I find Ann Lamotte’s idea from “Shitty First Drafts” helpful. It relieves me of the need to aim for perfection on my first pass. Nobody sees my early drafts, so they do not have to be good.

In some ways, this concept is similar to one of the benefits executive coaching provides. Coaching provides a safe environment to talk through ideas and role-play various discussions or scenarios. These discussions and role-playing exercises not only refine one’s thinking, but they can also encourage progress by providing a private risk-free space to begin moving ideas forward.

Michael Brown, MD, MS, MCHM, CHCIO is a certified executive coach (Center For Executive Coaching) and Chief Medical Officer at Acesis, Inc. He was an instructor at the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health for 8 years after graduating from their Masters in Healthcare Management program in 2007. For the 12 years prior to joining Acesis in 2014, Michael was the Chief Information Officer for Harvard University Health Services.