My best friend gave me some valuable advice about writing. Although it was provided in the context of academic publishing, it could really apply to any aspect of life. As this is blog is rated PG, I will paraphrase and say that she advocates for a ‘Sad’ First Draft (SFD).

The SFD is far from perfect. The idea is to get thoughts onto a page in whatever form they can be extracted from the mind. There is no self-editing or polishing. The only objective is to transfer what is up here [gestures at head] down here [gestures at computer screen].

I’ve written about perfectionsim and how it can be paralyzing. Although it is uncomfortable for me, I’m learning to embrace the SFD philosophy in all of the spaces I inhabit.

Having just finished the SFD of the second chapter of my doctoral dissertation, I can say that I’m not perfect at being not perfect, but I am making progress.


  1. On an unrelated topic, I wish you and yours safety and good health as these big storms veer ever more in your direction!


  2. Valuable advice (though you got me thinking what the original form of “SFD” was; I’m sure this question is going to bounce around in my head the whole day). I always had this tendency to “do it right the first time” all my life, culminating in slower-than-ideal progress due to perfectionism. A Partner at my previous firm advised me to dump all the thoughts onto the document first and refine later (that was in relation to functional analysis write-ups). It has been really difficult to change this mindset as, (1) it has been my way of writing my whole life (think writing on exam papers), and (2) I apply the “do it right the first time” method to pretty much every other aspects of my life so I keep having to make an exception when writing. But I see the benefit of doing download-first-refine-later when writing and am getting there (SLOWLY).


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