Shitty first drafts, or learning to love failure

Anne Lamott talks about the importance of the shitty first draft when starting a new writing project.

For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page.

I want the Fail Zone to be a space where we can practice the shitty first draft of whatever we’re working on.

What is the equivalent of a shitty first draft for a dance piece, or an elevator pitch, or cleaning out your closet?

We’ll find out this Sunday! Bring a project, an idea or a goal, and we will find a way to practice it with romping, child-like glee.

Here are some ideas to of how it might play out:

GOAL: get a fantastic new job. SHITTY FIRST DRAFT: We take turns asking you questions and you answer them as badly as possible. Or you could draft a shitty resume with crayons.

GOAL: rock a karaoke power ballad. SHITTY FIRST DRAFT: sing it in front of us as badly as you can. If you want, we can back you up with shitty backup dancing/singing.

GOAL: get your 2 year old to sleep through the night. SHITTY FIRST DRAFT: brainstorm stupid solutions with the group and put together a ridiculous, wildly inconsistent sleep plan.

GOAL: make a full length dance piece. SHITTY FIRST DRAFT: choreograph a shitty 5-minute version of the piece you imagine. Show it to the group.

GOAL: submit a grant application. SHITTY FIRST DRAFT: write a self indulgent way too long project description. Read it out loud to us.

GOAL: keep your house clean. SHITTY FIRST DRAFT: what is the laziest, dumbest, least efficient way to clean up a mess? Brainstorm with the group. Or practice cleaning up a corner of the room like a 3-year-old.

GOAL: perform a standup comedy routine. SHITTY FIRST DRAFT: try out some awkward, tasteless, not funny jokes on us.

GOAL: do a keynote presentation at a conference. SHITTY FIRST DRAFT: put together inane powerpoint slides and practice bombing in front of us.

There are so many ways this could go. Bring anything. Or come with an empty mind and receive a wild card failure assignment from me.  

And if this is making you anxious, let me assure you: the point is to make it FUN and EASY to fail. No one will be forced to do anything. This is an opt-in, laugh at yourself, take the pressure off situation. If it feels hard, that means we need to rethink it until it’s ridiculously, stupidly easy for you to do.

Ready for failure practice? YEAH! Dig out your ripped up sweatpants and an old t-shirt and let’s do this.


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