The bad first draft

I sometimes do copywriting work for clients who struggle to define exactly what they want. My tactic, which often surprises people, is to come up with what I call “a bad first draft”. It’s easier to look at what I’ve come up with and tell me why it’s wrong than agonise over trying to create a brief for the copy you want.

That’s because even writing a brief represents a form of “getting it out there”, with all the attendant vulnerabilities and worries. If I take the lead and quickly bang out a first draft, one designed to be torn to pieces, I’m taking that vulnerability on myself and giving the client “permission” to be clearer. (Very occasionally, there’s a champagne moment when the “bad first draft” actually turns out to nail the non-existent brief.)

They say “Don’t let the perfect become the enemy of the good.” I say: don’t let the good be the enemy of getting started at all.

The “bad first draft” tactic is so effective that I actually had concerns about revealing it in this blog post, in case other writers copy it and steal all my business. Then I got over myself.

If you change one thing in 2013, perhaps it should be this: write more bad first drafts. Maybe it’s a blog post, a press release or an article. Maybe it’s a novel. Maybe it’s a business plan. For me in 2012, it was a sitcom script. The same principle applies to all these things. Write the bad version. Make yourself vulnerable and move forwards with the things you really want to do.