Before my first draft, I looked to my favorite writers for inspiration. I was taken with how they developed their ideas over the course of an article with such clarity and grace. But rather than feeling inspired, I felt defeated, like the bar had been lifted so high that it was best to concede right then.
And that was my first mistake: I was judging myself against others. I wasn’t considering the years of hard work these writers had put in; all I could think was that I had to be better. But making it a competition only increased the challenge. I was trying to play Mozart before I learned to read music.
Then I looked at my subject matter and realized I was writing what I thought I should be writing rather than what I wanted to be writing. This resulted in watered-down, read-that-before prose that added nothing new to a topic; I was piecing together outside opinions instead of developing my own.
But the worst mistake I made was trying to edit as I wrote. Nothing killed my momentum like trying to reword a sentence before I finished a paragraph. I was letting the details get in the way of crafting a narrative.
So I scrapped what I had and took a whole new approach. And here’s the result, in all of its glory. I can’t honestly say that I love what I wrote, but as I learned, that’s not the point. It’s about taking the first step and getting better from there. I can never improve if I start with perfection.