Friday, August 04, 2006

help from anne lamott

i'm working on a first draft for a very long article i've been hired to write and I'm watching bad sentence after bad sentence pouring through my fingers onto the screen. i just read somewhere that anne lamott said something about the necessity of bad first drafts and googled her name and "first draft" and found a wonderful excerpt of her Bird by Bird:

"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. I know some very great writers, writers you love who write beautifully and have made a great deal of money, and not one of them sits down routinely feeling wildly enthusiastic and confident. Not one of them writes elegant first drafts."

- full excerpt which does not read as if it were a first draft

ok, posting that made me feel better. back to my bad writing!


JSV said...

It took me five drafts to write my book.

Also...don't count on a lot of faith from those close to you. Writing can be a real solo act in the beginning. It takes a lot of faith and focus without a lot of encouragement. I can count on two fingers those that were supportive.

Anonymous said...

I concur with Ann Lamott about the challenge of writing, Stephen, and expect your article will end up the better for it. In my experience, the best writing is birthed out of tension, dissatisfaction, hesitance etc.--because that kind of writing comes from our need to express the deepest stirrings in our soul. When we attempt to taste the spiritual, to translate transcendant principles into human words, there probably should be some wrestling involved.

sarah from

Stephen said...

thank you joe!

thank you sarah!

Sivin Kit said...

I needed this today. I've been stuck for quite a while for a writing project

Stephen said...

hey I'm glad it was helpful sivin!