There is one thing everyone needs to understand about first drafts: it doesn’t need to be good, it just needs to exist.

No one else has to see your first draft, you can be selfish with it and never let it see the light of day–that’s okay! The first draft is your draft. That said, if you want to show it to someone, that is perfectly fine too. The important thing to remember is that there’s no pressure either way, it’s whatever makes you most comfortable.

But remember, don’t leave it as a simple first draft. Work with it, play around and see what you can create from it. When working with modeling clay or dough, you take it out of the package as a little lump of something-or-other. But once it’s in your hands, you can shape it and mold it however you see fit.

Don’t let your first draft scare you, no matter how much it tries to tell you otherwise, you are the one in control. First drafts are bullies, they will try to push you away, tell you what to do, run you over, and do just about anything else they can. You don’t have to let it be a bully, take charge and show it who’s boss. Sit down and write. Don’t stop until you have something that resembles a draft–even if it’s short. Something is something and that’s what counts.

When dealing with anxiety regarding first drafts, it often helps to take a minute and just breathe. Turn on some steady music (preferably without lyrics so your mind won’t instantly focus on the words) and take a moment to just refocus yourself.

You need to get started and it can often help to start with some kind of outline, even if it’s just a prompt for each paragraph, then fill in the gaps. You don’t have to write your essay or fiction from the beginning to the end. Start anywhere you like, it’s your story.

In regards to essays, don’t worry about getting the introduction or conclusion until you know the specifics of what the rest of your paper will be about. In fiction, it doesn’t matter quite as much, just be careful and keep track of what order things are happening in.

Remember, like clay, you can shape it later. The first draft doesn’t have to be something good, it just has to be something.

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