I published my first book, Girls Fight Back: The College Girl’s Guide to Protecting Herself back in 2006. I started writing it years earlier, but then got sued by my book agent and it was an overall hellish experience. So I crawled into a box for a year or so, ’till I had the guts to come back and start speaking my truth again. It was one of those experiences that you label as “crappy” for quite some time, until one day you realize what a tremendous gift it was. That book is now getting published in its 3rd edition, so all ended well!
I’m now writing my second book, a guide for people seeking to make a difference by starting or running an organization or company (either non-profit or for-profit). It’s so therapeutic to chronicle what I have learned along the way in getting Girls Fight Back off the ground, and share with others.
Simply stated, writing a book is hard. Even though this ain’t my first rodeo, I’ve gone through some spurts of paralysis from time to time. The fear of sucking at anything is pretty intense, especially for perfectionist types. Knowing your work will be a permanent fixture in the Library of Congress once published, doesn’t do much to relieve the pressure.
Today I had an amazing day of writing and just letting the words flow, and I give Anne Lamott the credit for the mindset that made this possible. In her book Bird by Bird (a great read for writers of any kind), she talks of the importance of just getting the words typed and not judging. Easier said than done, so she coined a term for this initial whack at getting your thoughts down on paper, sans perfection: The Shitty First Draft.
Oh, how I love the SFD! It’s so freeing to know you can just shake up the two-liter bottle of Coke (your ideas), unscrew the cap and just cover the walls with reckless abandon. Later you go back and make it sound pretty. When I let it rip under the permission only a SFD can allow, what pours onto the paper is so real. So genuine. And I think readers appreciate this unbridled honesty from writers.
While the SFD helps me about 99% of the time, there’s always a back-up method if there’s still that writer’s block or anxiety. As Ernest Hemingway once said: “Write drunk. Edit sober.”