Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
I’ve been thinking about my current WIP for months. Granted, I want to be more thorough in the planning stages with this one, and I’ve been querying, interning, and revising as well. But I will admit a small part of me is nervous my draft won’t live up to my expectations. It can’t possibly be as good as it is in my head. It can’t be as impacting or engrossing as I imagine it.
If I don’t try, I can’t fail, right? Sure. In a sense. But (you knew there was going to be one, didn’t you?) I can’t succeed with this story, either– not until I put words on paper.
So maybe you’re thinking I’m going to tell you to knuckle down and bulldoze through. Trust yourself! Be inspired! Take a risk! You can do it!
More helpful than that, I think, is taking the pressure off drafting. A draft isn’t a book. A draft is just a starting place. Here’s my rule about drafts:
All a first draft has to do is exist.
A perfect first draft has a beginning, a middle, and an end. That’s it. Is that a perfect book? Of course not. A draft isn’t the same thing as a book, though. Don’t expect to hit your literary goals with your first draft. Good writing is rewriting. Second and third and tenth drafts are for adding layers and subtlety and poetry. Don’t expect too much from your first draft. Don’t burden it with your visions of grandeur to the point you’re scared to write it. An unwritten book isn’t a book. So take the pressure off drafting, don’t expect perfection, and trust yourself to improve it and make it what you want in later drafts. That is what they’re for. All a first draft has to do is exist.