“For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts."
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.”
Now, I have to admit, when I first read Ms. Lamott's views on shitty first drafts I was a little skeptical. I understood what she meant--how paralyzing perfectionism can be, how fearing that what we spit out onto the page isn't good enough keeps us from writing anything at all, yadda-yadda-yadda.
But a niggling little part of me thought that if you start with shit, no matter what you do with it, it's still going to stink.
Until, that is, I happened upon an episode of Mythbusters that changed my whole perception of "shit." Apparently, shit is just another malleable substance that can be elevated beyond its humble origins.
The next time you look at the first (or second or third) draft of whatever you're writing and think, this is utter shit, remember--it is possible to polish a turd.
I know this for a scientific fact, because Adam and Jamie proved it on Mythbusters:
So just keep polishing.
Come on, everybody, shout it with me (and Anne and Adam and Jamie)!
"Bird by bird, polish that turd!"
Or, if you remain skeptical, at least remind yourself that a fertile imagination is a prerequisite for a good writer. Polished or not, shit is a great fertilizer.
And if you still can't stand the thought of writing a shitty first draft, think of it instead as preparing the soil in which you're going to plant the seeds of your brilliance. ;)
What's your take on first drafts? Just how shitty can you stand them?
Bonus Question: Did I squeeze the word "shitty" into this post enough times?
Bonus-Bonus Question: Should I have substituted another word for "shitty"? Maybe "crappy," or perhaps "shizzle-y"? *
* I thought about it, but ultimately decided if it was good enough for Anne, it's good enough for me.