Monday, December 28, 2009

Shitty First Drafts

As a writer, I’m both lazy and a perfectionist. I don’t want or think I have to devote a lot of time to writing, yet I’m frustrated when the outcome isn’t perfect. Not the best recipe for a
successful blog.

I’ve realized that both the laziness and the perfectionism are born of fear. Of failure. Of disappointment. Of disappearing. Of being misunderstood.

"Writing is not, for us, an art, but breathing." -Anais Nin

I’ve been a writer since my early years, when I scribbled stories in notebooks, poems in the margins of textbooks and entered every essay contest imaginable. I had no fear. I hadn’t learned it yet. Instead, I wrote because I loved it. Because I wanted to. Because I needed to.

As you get older, you learn fear. You learn excuses.

I’ll write more when…

I have more time.
I have a better (or any) blog design.
I get more followers.
I have better ideas.
I’m in the mood.

Which basically means, you’ll never write.

A few weeks ago, I realized that I needed to embrace the fear. So I did what I always do when I need inspiration. I turned to Anne Lamott. She describes the process perfectly. The excuses, the rituals, the bargaining, the terror. And then she introduced me to something powerful: the “shitty first draft.”

I’ve tried everything to circumvent the shitty first draft. Not writing one. Writing and not revising. Writing a draft and abandoning it in frustration. Writing at 2am and blindly praying for the best.

But there’s no avoiding the shitty first draft. It’s part of the process.

And Jon Morrow’s blog a few days ago drove that point home.

Writing is work.  Hard work.  And necessary work.

So, I’m embracing it all—shitty first drafts, the fear, the anxiety, the perfectionism. How about you?


  1. Oh yeah, I know EXACTLY what you're talking about. I've been avoiding writing a particular 700-word story for all of the reasons you listed. Tonight, I've vowed to at least start typing, no matter how bad the first draft stinks.

  2. I finally read Bird by Bird over Christmas vacation. Wasn't it amazing?!

  3. Oh my, if there was any doubt before, you just sealed our fate, Laura. We are truly twins, separated at birth.

    I'd comment on what you've said here, but there's nothing to add - you nailed it, word for word, bird by bird.

  4. Shitty first drafts is my favorite chapter. Along with the School lunches chapter!



Thank you so much for reading my blog! I'd love to hear from you!



Blog Widget by LinkWithin