Answer: When wanting to write something good means you don’t write at all.
When you’re polishing a piece of writing into the final manuscript, you want to select each word with deliberate precision. This is the time to fine tune the rhythm and tone of each phrase with both intention and intuition. The urge to make the writing the very best serves you and your readers.
Good writing always comes from rewriting. But first you have to have something to rewrite.
When you create that first mess that you can later craft into a polished manuscript, the desire to write something good can interfere with the ability to write at all. Allowing yourself to write badly is always better than trying to write so well, you don’t write at all.
All too often, the desire to write well becomes an expectation of excellence that creates resistance. This resistance slows the transfer of ideas from your mind to the page/screen where you can later refine them. At the worst, the expectation-generated resistance causes you to avoid drafting altogether.
The desire for perfection that serves you so well when you’re rewriting only gets in the way when you write the first draft. You don’t need a draft to be the best it can be – that’s why we call it a draft. You don’t even need it to be good. You only need to get the ideas, images and phrases out of your head and onto the page/screen.
You can’t possibly craft words in the first draft because you don’t know what you want to say yet. You don’t even know what you think yet. But once you get something on the page, you can start to manipulate what’s there to discover order in that mess.
When the urge for just the right word or the best phrasing makes you hesitate and impedes the flow of your imagination, it does not serve your writing. A good first draft is slightly more ordered and focused than random chance would produce. A bad first draft is one that is painfully slow to create because you keep second-guessing yourself.
The worst first draft is the one that never gets written because the desire to write well has blocked the ability to write at all.
What’s the best thing you ever wrote badly?
What’s the best thing you never wrote because you tried so hard to write something good?