I’ve been an advocate of the quote “it’s often easier to ask for forgiveness than ask permission” – attributed to Grace Hopper. But the word ‘forgiveness’ has started to play on my mind. I understand the principle of responsibility that lies behind the phrase ‘ask permission’ and appreciate the spirit of JFDI and experimentation that this quote suggests. But still the word ‘forgiveness’ niggles. The first sentence from the wikipedia article on forgiveness – “Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well.” – sums it up. Words like victim, offence, and offender all suggest something wrong to me. Metaphors and quotes, like models are incomplete and probably should not be taken literally but I do think we need to be aware of some of the subtle messages that they contain. Experimentation and action should be taken in an open manner, with an appreciation for the outcomes and those who may be affected by the outcome. If something is a good idea and worth doing, don’t hesitate because you feel you need to ask permission, but don’t do something that you think you’ll need to beg forgiveness for afterwards. Be open, transparent and clear … but also be courageous and do ‘the right thing.’
Starting anything can be daunting. It’s said that ‘Perfection is the enemy of good‘ and the desire to make sure that something is perfect or just right can result in never doing anything. I’m prone to this problem and have many projects that I’ve spent time on only not to ‘start’ because I’ve wanted to make sure that it was perfect before I showed anyone. Well I’m going to try a different tack. This is a tack that I have used with success in NaNoWriMo to complete the required 50,000 words in a month twice now. Both times I just ‘started’ and continued with the mindset that I was creating a ‘shitty first draft’ and carried on every day until I had reached the required number of words.
But what do I mean with the term ‘shitty first draft’. This is a phrase inspired by Ernest Hemingway quote that ’The first draft of anything is shit’, but popularised by Anne Lamott in her book Bird by Bird It is an antidote for perfection paralysis. Don’t worry about the state of the first draft, it’s a just an outpouring of ideas to be shaped later. Miss Lamott justifies just getting it down and not bothering about the quality as ‘no-one is going to see it’. The shaping comes later. You can improve on a draft, but you cannot improve on nothing.
It is not for everyone. Some do need the structure of a full plan with plot, outline and schedule before they start. For me that way leads to stagnation. So shitty first draft it is. I’ll polish as I go on.