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Let It Be Junk

I was talking with a friend the other day. He’s an incredibly insightful life coach with a fascinating backstory who’s been attempting to write his book for over a year. He mentioned he’s tried to start 3 times, but he just gets stuck. He doesn’t know where to start. He spends 45 minutes and only comes out with a sentence.


We set aside the book talk and just chatted. He in the middle of a story about how he moved from his day job, which would be a dream job to most, into being a coach and the period of intense dissatisfaction he felt he stopped and said, “That’s the start of my book!”


While he was talking about the things that mattered to him, a turning point in his life, he knew. Why couldn’t he get there on his own – it was his story after all.


It turns out his mother was an English teacher. Every time he sat down to write he heard her in his head. “Don’t start a sentence with but or because. Is a lot one word or two? Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.”


I asked him if he gave himself permission to suck. The answer was no. I told him that I had a secret fear that one of my ghostwriting clients would see a first draft I’d written and promptly fire me – that’s how bad it is.


Every work of art starts with pencil lines. Every book worth publishing is gravely embarrassing in its first iteration. Give yourself a break and just vomit on the page. Stephen King says a second draft is a first draft less 10%. Get a lot out on the page and clean it up later. This is practice, not the World Series. Allow yourself to suck.


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