helping changemakers shine

(You have) permission to publish shitty first drafts

When our neighbours–a primary-school-aged girl and her grandma–knocked on our door last Friday afternoon, just before the long weekend that was going to wrap up the spring school holidays here in Sydney–nothing could have prepared our family for the two words they greeted me with: “Reema’s gone!”

Backtrack just a couple days.

Last Tuesday I bumped into my neighbour Reema* at the local indoor pool. Even though I’ve never seen Reema swim (hey, we just came out of winter here) I wasn’t that surprised to see her, tucked into a corner on a lawn chair with a couple magazines. After chatting for a couple minutes I also tucked myself into a corner within line-of-sight of my swimming offspring and their friends, and continued the book research that’s been dominating most of my waking hours. At the time I was immersed in The Art of Work, the latest book by blogging mentor extraordinaire Jeff Goins.

My instagram @anaik_ed Instagram post on that Tuesday

My instagram @anaik_ed Instagram post on that Tuesday

Both our young daughters, who live two doors down from each other and are in the same school grade, have played together a lot over the past few months since we moved to the neighbourhood. And both of them would probably spend most of their waking hours swimming if they could. So when my daughter had let it slip to her playmate that we were planning an afternoon at the pool, Reema–a busy freelancer like myself with not enough hours in a day but who nevertheless would do anything for her girl–agreed to take her along as well.

And … there’s no immediate sense of how to say this … Reema was to breathe her last just two short days later, late on Thursday evening. She collapsed. No terminal illness, no known heart condition. Nothing horribly serious to give her a clue that this ordinary Tuesday at the local swimming pool was going to be her last chance ever to take her daughter for a swim.

The deceptive lull of everyday life

An occupational hazard of living is that the mundane, every-day-events that embroil us–the errands and commutes and deskwork and cooking and cleaning and parenting–lull us into a kind of surface-level survival mode. We expect the current grind to continue intermittently for the foreseeable future.

We’re so busy putting out fires in Covey’s quadrants I and III that we perpetually put off the worthy, if more time-consuming goals waiting for us in quadrant II.

So easy to live in quadrants 1, 3 and 4...

So easy to live in quadrants 1, 3 and 4…

Now, I’m not suggesting Reema was living in those quadrants. I haven’t a clue. A solo mum, she adored her daughter and worked her butt off to provide a good life for her.

I still remember her soft voice, the acceptance emanating from those big, generous doe-eyes, telling me several weeks back “Hon, don’t worry about turning 40. I wish I was was 40. Wait until you’re about to turn 50!”

I barely knew the beautiful woman, but we shared enough time as neighbours and the mothers of two playmates for me to be a little bit brokenhearted about her beautiful little girl.

Freedom from paralysis comes with permission to fail

No. When I talk about the deceptive lull of everyday life, and the time-sucky quadrants 1, 3 and 4, I’m talking squarely to myself. When someone living two doors down from you is suddenly no longer on the planet, you can’t help but take a good look at all the petty mental rubbish that’s been occupying prime real estate in your own mind. Those half-hearted excuses and the overthinking borne of fear that paralyses forward movement.

The reality? None of us gets out of this adventure alive. And life–flawed, maddening, painful–is also sweet. And beautiful.

Now, I’m sorry but I can’t wax poetic about how the renewed realisation of death’s imminence is a gift. … It very well may be. But it’s still too raw and real.

But I can’t afford to be paralysed in fear any more, or to wait until I’m perfectly ready. That will never happen.

Case in point …

This blog is a visible example of my paralysis. Know how long I’ve had this website up? More than a year. Know how many reams and reams of mind-mapped blog plans I’ve scribbled? They’re everywhere. They’re almost uncountable. I have columns mapped out and hashtags to complement those columns on social media. They mock me every time I pass them, from under my desk and on my shelf and up on my office whiteboard.

So today I’m giving myself permission to write shitty first drafts on this blog.

It hurts. I’m an editor and shiny prose is my superpower. But it hurts more to remember that I have no idea how many more hours, days, weeks, or years I have left on this planet, and that I might take my unrealised dreams to the grave with me.

So even though I’m still only partway through my Scrivener tutorial, and several other e-courses and information products relevant to my business, and even though I’m putting way too many visuals in this post even though I don’t know where I’ll find visuals for the rest of the week, and even though I’m a little overwhelmed by the intricacies involved with SEO, Aweber, email blasts, information products, and marketing funnels, this paralysis ends.


You have permission to get your stuff out there

I give you permission to write shitty first drafts too. At least on your blog. Know what? Not just on your blog. (Oooh, editorial sacrilege.)

Get your stuff out there. In his manifesto entitled “Brainwashed–seven ways to reinvent yourself” Seth Godin had these words included in his “About the Author”:

SETH GODIN is the author of Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? He’s written a dozen other books, started a few Internet companies and writes a blog. He’s pleased to have a two-word biography: Seth ships.

Seth ships. That’s what he wants to be known for.

Down at the local playground, the girls were taking turns on the flying fox and paused for this photo

Down at the local playground, the girls were taking turns on the flying fox and paused for this photo

That burning dream I don’t want to go to the grave with? It’s all about enabling leaders and communicators who are building businesses and trailblazing in the digital era–maybe that’s you–to share your best stuff–your audacious, credible, vulnerable, entertaining, affirming, illuminating, organized, generous and inclusive stuff–with your tribes and the people you were put on this planet to reach, serve, connect with.

If that piques your interest and sparks something, if you have a nonfiction book in you bursting to get out, I welcome you to sign up with your email. That way you’ll be the first to know when I release this book, shared from the unique pattern-recognition perspective of an editor who has helped to birth numerous books and other information products, someone who devours nonfiction even more eagerly than dark-chocolate-covered ginger.

And should I bite the dust before my purpose as book whisperer is completely realised? At least you’ll have my shitty first drafts on this blog to inspire you.

So tell me, if you dare (in the comments below or via email: anaik [at] reflecteditorial [dot] com):

  1. Who would you hug the tightest if you knew this was your last few days on the planet?
  2. What one thing would you put out into the world, that you’ve been paralysed about up until now, but that’s burning inside of you?

(*name changed).

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
Mary Oliver

About Anaik Alcasas

I'm here to demonstrate that your editor can also be your ally, and to talk all things clarity, influence, and connecting through story. I'd love you to join the conversation.