How to Start a S#!tty First Draft

I’ve heard this concept for a while and I finally read what I believe is the first reference to a S#!tty First Draft (SFD) in Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Of course, I got stuck on a blank page in Word and was trying to figure out how to start a SFD. Blank white space is intimidating. The last two posts I published, one on my dog and one on creating your reality, have received a bunch of great feedback. I get caught up in the, “How am I going to follow that one up?” When you see hundreds of people across the world have read your post, it can either be emboldening or utterly intimidating. I can be haunted by thoughts like, “How dare I think I can follow that up.”


So here we go. The how’s and why’s of the SFD:

Percolate.  I think of the old, dust-covered Hamilton Beach Percolator my mother would drag out and clean for bridge club in the mid 1960’s. Even if the end product is unpalatable and bitter, the process of filtering through and rethinking and mulling over is important. I started thinking about the SFD when I read Brene Brown’s book Rising Strong some four months ago. Yesterday, I read about it in Bird by Bird. I made notes. I took a shower. I washed my hair. I digested. I realize that, in retrospect, I do this with most of the topics I write about. Something piques my interest and then I let it sit and percolate. I need a little reflection to put the pieces together. So before you start your SFD, percolate a bit.

Start.  The problem with percolating is that it cannot stop there. Percolating can become ruminating. Obsessing. Procrastination. So sit down, whether it’s 6 AM or, as I sit here on the West Coast, my laptop reads: 9:07 AM PST/12:07 PM EST. Start. Open up a blank document. Start. Spill. Type. Don’t worry about another cup of coffee or if you are at your favorite desk with your fuzzy slippers on. Just start. If you wait for the perfect moment to arrive, it will remain elusive.

Sloppy.  I think we all have a bit of perfectionism inside of us. Some of us more overtly than others. I don’t iron my underwear but I do like a clear counter-top and I have a certain way I like the pillows on my couch. As Jason Lengstorf writes, “But there’s hesitation. What if it’s not exactly right? What if people judge your work too harshly? What if this idea isn’t as good as you thought? Small worries like these can lead to procrastination and unnecessary stress.” We get caught up in perfectionism. It won’t be perfect. It can never be perfect. So go for sloppy. Embrace the wabi-sabi.

Data.  Brene wrote in Rising Strong, “In the absence of data, you’ll make up a story.” Isn’t that the truth? I typically search a few terms like “SFD” or “letting go of perfectionism” to see what other data is out there. Who else has written about this? What are their thoughts? What other insights are out there? When searching SFD, I found a bunch of things on actual writing but this all can be applied to more than just writing. Gather the data on the project you want to start. Gather the data on the new knife set you want to buy. I’m not suggesting you turn this into the dreaded analysis paralysis but gather some data for your SFD.

Look.  Keep an eye out for Quantum Flirts.  I learned about Quantum Flirts at the ORSC training by CRR Global. Is the Universe winking at you? Are they sending an almost imperceptible or more overt “sign” that you need to take in? I have been mulling over starting a book for months…er…. years…maybe a decade. I saw Frances McDormand on the Oscars, when she asked every woman to stand up who was nominated and she said, “We all have stories to tell.” For me, this was a sign. I have a story to tell. Some fifty plus years in the making. I need to start telling that story. The Universe was giving me a sign that I need to start writing my book. I need to tell my story. Thank you, Frances.

End.  As Anne Lamott wrote, you need to have the end in mind before you start. How do you know where you are going unless you know the destination? My destination for this piece is for you, my reader, to get started. Whatever getting started means for you. Get out your sneakers and run for 30 seconds. Take one pile of papers off the end of the dining room table. Start that gnarly project you have been sitting on for months…perhaps years. Think about what the end-result will be, whether it’s feeling in better shape, finally decluttering your home or getting that project complete. It doesn’t have to be perfect or reasonable or perspiration-free. Start…with the end in mind.

I am really fortunate to have an excellent editor that makes my posts come together. Most of my posts are SFD’s with misspellings, grammatical errors and references that are incorrect. I dump on a page and hope my editor can make sense of it. This makes writing a SFD a lot easier because I know that Susan has my back and will fix my mistakes. Just start. Listen to Frances. What story do you want to tell? I know you have one.

Why you need to act As If

You drive up to the restaurant and see a full parking lot.  “Ugh.  This is going to be a long wait.”  That co-worker you dislike was given the project you wanted. “Grrr.  He wins every time.” Your child doesn’t respond to your text.  “She must have been in a car accident.”  You are, in essence, expecting the worst.  And guess what typically follows?  More bad news.  When you align your energy and expectation with what will go wrong often, invariably, it does.


The flip side of this is acting As If what you really desire is going to happen.  This was something I personally experienced some 13 years ago when my husband and I were trying to sell our house in California.  We were living in a rented house in North Carolina, my stipend for rent from the company I was working for was ending, the credit cards were maxed and one offer on the house in California had just fallen through.  I was in a really bad desperate space.  My teenage step daughter was visiting at the time.  As she looked at the rental we were living in, she said, “This looks like a hospital.”  Not very inviting, huh?   We had intentionally left everything in boxes so that “it would be easier to move.”  The trouble was, we were not creating a home in North Carolina.  We were in transition and set to stay in transition for the foreseeable future.  Not a good place to be.  We were acting As If we were in transition, staying stuck.  We spent the next weekend putting up pictures, knickknacks, buying fresh flowers and making it a “home”.  You know what happened next? The house in California had an offer in the next week and closed within a month.  End of transition.  We acted As If we were home in North Carolina, and so it was.


These are reasons why you need to act As If:


  • Dwelling on what will go wrong is debilitating. Spending hours on ruminating about what your sister said to you or how your co-worker wronged you is fuel for what Dr. Daniel Amen calls “Automatic Negative Thoughts.”  When you fuel these “ANTs”, they only getting bigger.  The neural pathways in your brain which at one time might have been a deer trail, start to build into a roadway and then into a super highway.  You know these people.  Things rarely go well for them because they are so vigilant for what will go wrongLet go of the dwelling and act As If.


  • It is energizing.  When we finally decorated our rental house, I felt great.  I felt like I belonged.  I liked the space I was in.  The universe feels that vibe.  It returns the energy.  I have a few clients that are in transition.  I asked what they could do to move forward, to act As If.  One made the decision to buy a kitchen table so he would not have to eat on the floor of the apartment.  Another paid for the ex’s stuff to be shipped off.  Once these decisions were made, there were big smiles and a sense of buzzing in the room.  The force field holding them back was let go and now they were energized to move forward.


  • You identify with the real feeling that you want.  Whether it’s freedom, a weight lifted or a sense of adventure, discovering the guiding force to propel you forward is critical.  As Andrea Schulman wrote, “So you want a new car, and you’d really love to manifest it with the Law of Attraction.  This is a great thing to want….but what is at the root of this wanting?  What emotion are you trying to feel by attracting a new car?”  Freedom, prosperity or control?  There is a core emotion driving that desire.  So tap into it.


  • Look for signs.  Look for alignment.  This is the opposite of dwelling on what’s going wrong.  A personal sign for me is a blue heron.  Every time I see one whether in person or a photo or painting, I feel emboldened.  I’m on the right path.  The universe is winking at me.  As CRR Global would call it, it’s a Quantum Flirt.  It’s all going to be OK.  When you act As If, you expect these signs to come, and so they do.  Open your awareness to signs that are around you.


  • Come from a space of abundance.  This requires rewiring your brain.  I have been brought up with a sense of lack.  I can remember telling my kids that we couldn’t afford that.  As Schulman wrote, “Would a person who has lots of money say ‘I can’t afford that’ when she saw something pricey she wanted?  No, she would probably say something like, ‘I’d love to get that!’ – so you should too. Even if you can’t afford it, act as if you could. I have had this mantra for a while, ‘Money is always coming my way.'”  And it shows up.  A refund on my credit card, a gift card from a friend, a check in the mailbox or my husband taking me to dinner.  Abundance is constantly following me and thus it is so.


To act As If is quite liberating.  I am constantly expecting the unexpected.  I am in forward motion. How about you?


Quantum Flirts. Are you reading the signs in your life?

I have been training for the last year with CRR Global and a few weeks ago I went to the fourth installment of my Organization & Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) training. This stuff is magical. The topic on the last day was Quantum Flirts which is as described by CRR Global, “a short-lived, transient, perceptual signal which can be used to provide us with insight.” It is based on the work of Arnold Mindell and Quantum Mechanics. So the way I see it, it’s like the Universe is sending you a sign. As Arnold writes, “In everyday terms, Arny explained this idea of “many worlds” by saying that when we begin to focus on something, we see its most probable state, the one that fits into our culture and consensus reality. Yet, in each and every experience there is a multitude of other experiences lying in wait, though in Arny’s interpretation, we choose one and marginalize the others. To say it very simply, the moment we call something “a” or “b” we have marginalized all of its other possible states (c,d,e, etc).”The Universe is flirting with you and you need to pay attention to catch it so that you can see the possibility of a different outcome. It may be a flicker of a bulb, the song of a bird or a flash of sunlight on a wave, but it’s the Universe winking at you; laying out hints. quantum flirts

I was fortunate to be the volunteer coached by Grace Flannery in Quantum Flirts. She asked that I bring up a current issue or hot spot that had stressed me out with someone close to me. I talked about my son and his desire to find a place to live this summer instead of coming home and there are a multitude of options and growing for staying in Miami. I further explained how his mode of communication is texting which can leave one wanting (me) for more and frustrated. She then asked me to look around the room or outside and see if there was anything that caught my attention for just a second. I noticed how a classmate was flipping his reading glasses and the glint of light from it. This was my “flirt”. Grace ask me to animate the flirt and I flickered my fingers in an arc in front of me. Grace expounded on my gesture with a “Fa la la la la”. I copied her. She said, “So when your son texts, you can just say “fa la la la la”. We did it in unison. The observing class then copied me. We were all there “fa la la-ing” and copying my gesture. I could not stop laughing. We all cracked up. The Universe flirted with me and it was hysterical. My aggravation with my son was a construct of reality but by paying attention to the spark or “flirt” I could imagine that there could be a different outcome. I could let go and see it in a different light. It’s not a hot spot, there is potential in my relationship with my son to any outcome that I chose. His constant texting and options are his way to engage. So be it.

So how do you tune into the signals and flirts around you? Here are some ideas.

1. Presence. If you aren’t living in the moment, it’s going to be pretty hard to pick up on any signals. If you have ever meditated (and if you are a faithful reader of my blog you should be by now 🙂 ) do you start to notice every sound or smell or the crazy shapes on the inside of your eyelids when shut? You are officially “present”. I always notice the sound of the clock in my office, the birds outside or the ventilation system. Get present; become present.

2. Notice. Take notice of what is going on around you. I started noticing every animal that crossed my path and not just my dog. Turtle out in the lake bobbing with its head at the surface. A glint of light off a wet leaf, the clock is at 11:11, the receipt fell on the floor to only show the word “thanks”. Start to take note of what is going on out there or in there. My dog is sleeping, my dog is sighing, my dog is running around at lightning speed because geese are in her space, my dog is out of the water. I try and remember something about the dream I just woke up from. Take notice.

3. Offer. So what does this sign have to offer? Why is the universe or a higher power or quantum physics sending a signal to you? I know that each time I see a turtle I feel like I need to slow down and be patient. When I see a robin I think of rebirth and Spring. Canadian geese are a nuisance and I’m wondering if I am pestering someone. Perhaps my children? My husband? My boss? My dog is out of the water. Maybe I need water and nourishment as well. The receipt that fell with “thanks” showing is offering me gratitude. What is the offer?

4. It’s right. Don’t get caught up in perfection about what the sign or the flirt means. It means what it means to you. I know sometimes I “cheat” and Google “tornado as a symbol in a dream”. Apparently, this could be a sign of stress. Makes sense. That resonates for me. If it doesn’t, maybe the tornado is a sign of escaping danger. Animals like Robins, Herons and Turtles almost always have a Shamanic reference. Those are easy to Google as well. I dreamt about a broken bottle the other day and the reference for that symbol was “potential”. What it felt like for me was avoiding the broken glass. There was a person I was walking on egg shells for and I feel like the broken glass was the symbol I could relate to.

I’m less about everything happens for a reason and more about taking in information I do like to think that things show up at the right time and that the turtle that just stuck his head up through the surface of the lake is telling me to slow down. What signs do you see?