“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 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. If one of the characters wants to say, ‘Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,’ you let her.” ~Anne Lamott

I’m a mean writer.

Meaning I am not kind to myself when I’m writing. Even now, before my fingers can hit the keys to make the words, my inner critic is telling me I suck and why bother with any of this and to stop right now.

It’s been said many times, many ways that the creative self is an oh-so-tender being. She is young, vulnerable and poised to collapse if the winds of criticism and censorship blow too sternly.

Eager to please, she writes “After sanding, the floor color was tan” instead of “The floor was pickled yellow where the sander had removed its russet peel.”

I’m not saying that’s terrific writing, but the pickled and peeled description holds more promise than “the floor color was tan.”

In One Continuous Mistake, Gail Sher writes about the importance of sheltering new work from both the inner critic and from others’ input: “When a writer begins working on something, she herself may only have an inkling about its direction. That inkling (sprout) must be kept covered, sprinkled lightly with water, protected from wind and rain and in general allowed to grow and gather strength undisturbed by outside influences.”

Like a child, the creative self needs to get outside, stretch her legs and play freely. She needs “pre-K” time before starting first grade or taking the SATs. So, hide your evil hand-slapping ruler deep inside the bottom drawer of your writing desk.

(And despite the fact that only one metaphor is desirable, go ahead and use three of them, as I have done in the preceding paragraph!)

That’s advice to myself – and to you – today. Go easy as you write.

Photo Credit: Bernard Hermant 

I lead writing workshops in the Bay Area, and spend much of my so-called free time writing. To support my avocation (and my family) I sell residential real estate in San Francisco; for more about that visit RealEstateTherapy.org or CynthiaCummins.com.