There is no way of achieving true form without opening possibilities of all manner of travesties.

– Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg

One does not typically go to a theological text looking for writing advice. It’s no secret that such texts are not easy reading and are not concerned with creative craft. Both are true for Zornberg. This quote is from her book about Genesis. She makes it while discussing God’s acts of creation. But, when I read it I was stunned by its application to the craft of writing, its encouragement of first drafts – of first drafts of first paragraphs.

In fact, this may be the best principle, the best guidance for a first draft that I have ever read. It is critical that a writer get his or her head around the truth of this statement.

Anne Lamott* refers to the value of really crappy first drafts. Same thing. The first draft, the “opening possibilities” is the first step toward writing what readers will joyfully read. It is the only first step. There is no other starting place – not thinking, not talking about it, not reading, not plot outlining, not research – “true form” will result from none of these.

“All manner of travesties” are in store for the craftsman. This is good news. This means he has started, the dust unsettled.


*Assuming you have read “The War of Art” by Pressfield, you should now read “Bird by Bird” by Lamott. By ‘now’ I don’t mean this week or next, I mean as soon as possible after you read this last word.