Wise Words from Samira Ahmed

Author Samira Ahmed, writer of the amazing YA novel Love, Hate, and Other Filters as well as others, recently appeared on one of my favorite podcasts, 88 Cups of Tea. Her main takeaway that she pushed hard was the need for creative people to “say yes to themselves”, because we live in a world that puts up an awful lot of roadblocks in front of creatives. We don’t need to add to the roadblocks ourselves; self-obstruction is not healthy. It was a wonderful conversation (this podcast is always full of them), but there was one particular quote from Ms. Ahmed that knocked my breath away. Seriously, I almost had to pull my car over, so amazed was I to hear this.

She specifically referred to the habit a lot of writers have of describing their first drafts in extremely non-complimentary terms. There’s even a quote that gets shared on the online writing communities a lot that goes along the lines of, “The first draft of everything is crap!” I’ve  been pushing back on this notion for a long time (here’s an old essay of mine about it, over on ForgottenStars.net), but to hear a published professional author echo my thoughts was unimaginably refreshing. And Ms. Ahmed frames the problem in a way that I had never considered. Here is what she said:

SAMIRA AHMED: One piece of that kindness to myself–and I say that this is just for me, but I hope maybe it can speak to just one of the other storytellers out there–which is, I am gentle with the language that I use about my writing. So what that means is, I never say to myself that my first draft is ‘trash’. This is something for me; maybe this is OK with everybody else, your mileage may vary, but for me, when I was little one of those racist experiences that I had was a grown-ass man telling me, a kid, that I was ‘trash that America needed to take out.’ Words can be weapons, and I’m not going to use weaponized language against myself. So I don’t say that my first draft is ‘trash.’ I don’t say it’s ‘garbage’. I say it needs improvement. I say it needs work. I say I could make it better…but I don’t say that it’s trash.

I could not possibly agree more. Be kind to your own work, folks. It’s yours, after all!
(I featured the Samira Ahmed quote in a new post over on ForgottenStars.net, just in case you’re wondering how writing is progressing of late!)

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