Anne LaMott wrote in her infinitely wise and profound book Bird By Bird, that writers should write shitty first drafts. They should lay down all of their pent up anxiety about writing, throw caution to the wind, and just write. Shitty, boring, whiny, self-indulgent stuff that even the writer herself wouldn't want to read. She believes that's the only way to begin. Anne LaMott is one of those writers who makes me wince in her pain, blush at her embarrassment, cry out in her panic, and also grieve my own shortcomings amongst her sheer brilliance in writing. So, I guess if she says to write a shitty first draft and not to sweat it anymore - to just START already - then I should do it. I should face the screen with an open heart and get to work.
Henriette Anne Klauser postures in her book Writing On Both Sides of the Brain, that in order to avoid writing paralysis, we need to completely separate the process of writing from the process of editing. The two sides' goals oppose each other, she says. One side, the editor, strives for succinct perfection and poetic cadence and the other side (the writer) is just desperately trying to get stuff out without being judged. So she says to separate the two completely. First write garbage. Then, invite your editor side to come in for a peek, but remind her to please be kind in her analysis and corrections of the draft. Henriette says the editor will respond with a polite and dignified, completely non-judgemental editing of the writing because she has been purposefully invited into the scene. Editor side will apparently be Martha Fucking Stewart.
But here's the kicker with Anne and Henriette: they say no one's going to read that first draft anyway, so what the hell's the big fuss.
You read my garbage! My shitty first drafts! Anne and Henriette told me the key is not to worry about the reader, but I do. I do!
I know you're out there reading (all three of you) and I can't quite get past it into free writing territory. You've never said a nasty thing to me, you're actually a bundle of kindness and empathy, really, but I have this nagging fear that I'll bore the living hell out of you. I want to take good care of you, reader, and when I start feeling like I can't do that just right, then I just QUIT.
Which is what happened. I got all bogged down. Paralyzed. For like a month. Or was it even more?
But I'm trying to get over that. Right now I'm trying hard to follow Anne and Henriette's words of wisdom.
Because I like to write for writing's sake as well as for your sake.
Writing is cool in a wacky fun fucked up sort of way, and I actually really dig it. And I love to read the stuff that's imperfect in its funny or sad or confused or tormented way, so why should my stuff be any different, really? I like to write.
Even if you don't like it, I guess.
But I still hope you do.
So here it is. I give you my shitty first draft and my garbage.
Come on in. Nice to see you!
Do you all get this way too?