Tag Archives: shitty first drafts

Tuesday Tips: The Writing Process & Lamott’s “Sh*tty First Drafts”

8 Jun

There’s a lot to be said about “The Writing Process.” (And in future posts we’ll discuss it more!) But what it gets down to is writing is rewriting is revising again and again until it “sounds” right and gets the message that you want across to your readers.

Sometimes a particular writing task is easy. Sometimes it’s hard. But every writing project starts out with a first draft. Anne Lamott describes that as the “down” draft, where you just get everything “down.” Following the “down” draft is the “up” draft–where you fix everything up. Finally you have the “dental” draft–this is where you check and fix every word.

Does this make the writing process sound as easy as brushing your teeth–down, up, dental floss? The trick is figuring out HOW to get that first draft down and then how to fix it up until it shines! (We at The Write Alley can coach you on techniques to do this faster and more easily!)

As a writer and a coach, I’ve learned a lot from Anne Lamott. One of my favorite pieces of writing about writing comes from her chapter “Sh*tty First Drafts” from her book on writing Bird by Bird. This excerpt follows her advice to turn long intimidating writing projects into short manageable assignments. If you like this excerpt, I encourage you to buy Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird.

Most of my students find Anne Lamott hilarious, so when you’re done laughing, think about how you can apply her concept of the writing process to your own writing projects and please share your ideas about the writing process!

Anne Lamott has authored six novels including Rosie (which I just read),  she’s written food and book reviews for national magazines and been  a regular contributor to Salon’s “Mothers Who Think” and she’s written nonfiction books including Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year (1993) and Tender Mercies: Some Thoughts on
Faith (1999).

Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated. (more…)