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Dare to Begin: Hemingway's Wisdom on First Attempts

Dive into Hemingway's candid take on the creative process. Discover how embracing the imperfect nature of first drafts can be the key to artistic mastery and personal growth.

Dare to Begin: Hemingway's Wisdom on First Attempts

Saturday November 25, 2023 , 2 min Read

"The first draft of anything is shit.” This blunt, unvarnished statement by Ernest Hemingway, one of the 20th century's literary giants, encapsulates a fundamental truth in creative endeavors: the journey to excellence is often paved with initial imperfection.

Hemingway's words resonate profoundly within the creative community, striking a chord with writers, artists, and creators of all kinds. His assertion underscores the importance of embracing the messy, often frustrating process of initial creation. The initial draft, whether it be a manuscript, a sketch, or a prototype, is not the end but the beginning – a raw, unrefined starting point from which greatness can be sculpted.

For writers, Hemingway's quote serves as a reminder that the art of writing is as much about revision and refinement as it is about initial composition. The first draft is where ideas flow unfiltered, often in a disorganised or unpolished form. It's a playground for creativity, where the writer's primary aim is to transfer thoughts from mind to paper without the constraints of perfection. The subsequent drafts are where these ideas are honed, shaped, and crafted into something more coherent and impactful.

In broader creative fields, this quote speaks to the universal truth of growth and improvement. It encourages creators to move beyond the paralysing pursuit of perfection in the first attempt. Instead, it suggests embracing a process-oriented approach, where initial failures and shortcomings are not only accepted but expected and valued as essential steps in the journey towards mastery.

Hemingway's perspective also offers comfort and motivation. Knowing that even the greatest of writers and artists start with something far from perfect makes the act of beginning less daunting. It democratises the process of creation, reminding us that all great works start from humble beginnings.

Moreover, this quote highlights the often overlooked but critical role of resilience and persistence in the creative process. The willingness to start, to produce work that is initially unsatisfactory, and to persist through the iterative process of improvement is what eventually leads to excellence.

Ernest Hemingway’s candid reflection on the nature of first drafts is a powerful commentary on the creative process. It teaches us to value the messy beginnings, embrace imperfections, and understand that the path to greatness is iterative and fraught with revisions. In doing so, it not only demystifies the process of creation but also serves as a beacon of encouragement for creators in all fields.