Creativity is Like Pulling Teeth: 6 Ideas to Write Your First Draft

Often, sitting down to pen a story can feel like pulling teeth. Yet if you never get started, your ideas will only exist in your head. You need to start somewhere. Here are six ideas to write your first draft.

1 Capture Your Ideas

The blank page often feels like an insurmountable wall. However, along with the emptiness it embodies, the blank page also offers opportunities. Who says you have to write your ideas?

German author and poet, Günter Grass, created al his first drafts using a blank book and drawings out ideas. You can also use your mobile phone to dictate and transcribe your thoughts into a first draft. The point is not to get it perfect, but to get it done. 

2 Focus on One Thing at a Time

Trying to capture the entire plot along with character arcs, realistic dialogue and exciting pacing can overwhelm your brain. You sit there, at the starting line, with too many ideas. 

Think of your first draft as a way to focus on one aspect of your story. You might trace a single character’s arc or work out the dialogue for a particular scene. With each subsequent pass, you can add more details. 

Before you know it, you’re off and running with the story. 

3 Embrace the Mess

Often writers rework their early chapters over and over, seeking that elusive goal of perfection. What good will this do if it wasn’t the best place to start? Or maybe you need to change the whole shebang.

The goal of “perfectionism” is a creativity killer. Let your first draft(s) be messy. Scribble and cross things out. Write in the margins. Or if you work on a word processor, keep a slew of notes just below the main text. 

Letting yourself be cluttered frees your creative mind. 

4 Start with Freewriting

Our brains are so cluttered with the everyday necessities, it’s hard to get into the writing zone. One technique to jostle those pedestrian demands loose is to write them down. Jot down all the other things you need to do, just to get them out of your brain. 

Additionally, you can freewrite, letting your brain jot down everything and everything that pops in there. No judgment. You might be surprised at what comes forth. The only caveat, you need to keep this to five or ten minutes. 

5 Work Out of Sequence

Getting stuck on the first scene? Why not skip to a different part of the plot? You could write the ending first. Or perhaps your passion lay with a certain scene. It may be the reason you wanted to create this story in the first place. You may even find that the scenes you skip don’t need to be there in the first place.

You might try the Seven Point Story Structure method. This forces the writer to think of the ending and the midpoint of the story, creating a balance between events.

6 Use Placeholders

Sometimes you get derailed by a certain detail or description. You want to get it right, but slowing down will kill your momentum. Relax, this is the first draft. It doesn’t have to be complete.

When you run into a detail, action scene, or dialogue that you don’t want to pen immediately, drop in a placeholder. You could use a code, like TK, or simply put the word LATER. Then you can do a search for those and find your missing sections. 

Writing a story doesn’t have to be like pulling teeth. Let your first draft be terrible. Or as Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, you have permission to write a “shitty first draft”.

Tim Kane

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