Six Tips for Getting a First Draft:


1. Write fast and easy

Write with and on whatever feels most comfortable. Write as quickly as the ideas come to you.

2. Don’t edit

Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or anything other than getting the ideas down on paper when you are writing a first draft.

3. Stay on track

Read what you wrote the previous day to seed your mind with the work you have done.


4. Trust yourself

If you are flooded with ideas and those ideas are not the next section you had anticipated writing, write the ideas anyway. This is a first draft. Get the ideas on the page so you don’t lose them.

5. Block writer’s block

Imagine tasks for your writing. If you aren’t ready to get into the next logical section of the piece, write a section you can get into. Keep a list of scenes you think you will need. Start with one of those. If that doesn’t work, ask yourself questions about the work and answer them in writing or as if you were journaling. Interviewing yourself about the work is like an enema. It will ease the blockage out of the way and give you relief.

6. Write notes and reminders to yourself

When you are on a roll and think of something you missed and need for clarity and consistence (fancy term is verisimilitude), write notes in the margin, scribble within the text if you need to. Don’t worry about making a mess. Good writing comes from making lots of attempts and messes. The point is to keep the information and not interrupt your flow.

Books I’d recommend having in your writing area:

*A dictionary. I carry pocket dictionary in my backpack. I don’t want to lose my flow because I am distracted about how a word is spelled. Usually, I just scribble it and come back to it later, but if I can’t let it go for a later revision, I look it up.

*A Thesaurus—same as above. If finding the right word is slowing me down and I can’t move past it, I look it up.

*A fun grammar and usage book. I like Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing by Mignon Fogarty. I also keep The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus and Painless Grammar by Rebecca Elliott.

*A book with writing exercises or useful encouragement about the creative process of writing. I like Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind. I also adore Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write is blunt and lovely.

William Zinsser’s book, On Writing Well is valuable for its tips on writing better, but it is also inspirational and practical.

Also, buy the books you love and read them again periodically. I keep my favorites close to me because I want to remind myself of how I felt reading them. 

15 Famous Quotes on Creativity from 


“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso

“If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it” – Salvador Dali

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people” – Leo Burnett

“You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club” – Jack London

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will” – George Bernard Shaw

“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” – Dr. Seuss

“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity” – Charles Mingus

“Originality is nothing but judicious imitation” – Voltaire

“Creativity comes from a conflict of ideas” – Donatella Versace

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things” – Ray Bradbury

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, the just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while” – Steve Jobs

“Creativity is a drug I cannot live without” – Cecil B. DeMille

“You see things; and you say, ‘Why?’ But I dream things that never were; and I say, ‘Why not’?” – George Bernard Shaw

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on” – Albert Einstein

10 writing prompts: where will your creative process take you?

1. I once saw a very large…

2. The last time I’d seen her…

3. The fire began…

4. Crap, I did it again…

5. The only problem I could see…

6. Without warning…

7. She wasn’t home, she was…

8. I’ll start at the end…

9. Summer always begin the same …

10. Against my better judgment I…

Quotes from Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland


“Artmaking involves skills that can be learned…Even talent is rarely distinguishable, over the long run, from perseverance and lots of hard work.” Page 3

“Art is made by ordinary people.” Page 4

“Making art and viewing art are different at their core.” Page 4

“To all viewers but yourself, what matters is the product: the finished artwork. To you and you alone, what matters is the process: the experience of shaping that artwork. The viewers’ concerns are not your concerns. Their job is whatever it is: to be moved by art, to be entertained by it, to make a killing off it, whatever. You job is to learn to work on your work.” Page 5

“In fact there’s generally no good reason why others should care about most of any one artist’s work. The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars. One of the basic and difficult lessons every artist must learn is that even the failed pieces are essential.” Page 5

“Those close to you know that making the work is essential to your well being. They will always care about your work, if not because it is great, then because it is yours—and this is something to be genuinely thankful for. Yet however much they love you, it still remains as true for them as for the rest of the world: learning to make your work is not their problem.” Page 6

“Basically, those who continue to make art are those who have learned how to continue—or more precisely, have learned how to not quit.” Page 9

“Quitting means not starting again—and art is all about starting again.” Page 10

Writer’s tool box


Read as much as you can! Read fiction, nonfiction, poetry, newspapers, field guides, menus, graffiti, job ads, billboards. Are you seeing a trend? You never know where the next great idea will come from. Jot down beautiful language or images that catch your eye.


I like having a dictionary, thesarus, reference books for quotes, the Bible, my favorite novels, poetry and nonfiction books nearby. I won’t interrupt my flow of writing to look things up unless my writing flow is being distracted by the word, specific detail, or phrase I can’t pull out of my head.


It doesn’t matter unless it really matters to you. Write with whatever tools you enjoy using. The one bit of advice I’d give is to not buy journals that are too pretty or expensive. If their appearance or cost get in the way of you writing a crappy first draft in them they are way too expensive. I have been so cheap as to buy outdated nicely bound calendar books and written over the dates.

Personally, I usually begin a project longhand in cheap journals or notebooks–I occasionally spurge on a moleskin journal, but then I put that draft into the computer. When I am typing it I am doing some revision and edits, but not too heavy because first I want to get a complete first draft while the work is in my head.