Shitty First Drafts: A Writer’s Relief

After reading a section from Anne Lamott’s book Bird by Bird called “Shitty First Drafts,” I have a new found hope for my ability as a writer. In this passage, Lamott discusses how she goes about writing her drafts when she had to write food reviews for a magazine. She would purposefully write a terrible first draft, because she knew that there was a rare chance that anyone would actually even see it, and that once she went back and looked over it later, she would be able to edit it and pull the actual rich content out of the rubble of a mess she had made. I will be discussing my own ways of dealing with writing and comparing them to Lamott’s examples.

Something that I’m guilty of is that I either will stray away from wanting to write something if I can’t get a writing flow started, or I will write the first draft and be satisfied with what I did without trying to revise it for later. I know very well that neither of these are good habits, but old habits are hard to break. Lamott says that “very few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it.” This tells me that for the former issue, I should just be like her and go through with writing a “shitty first draft” even if I’m afraid of how it will look. Fear never helped anyone advance. As for the latter, according to Lamott, I’m living in the “fantasy of the uninitiated.” I should do more than one draft and work to improve on each one. I am not a fully published writer and even if I was, I should not be acting like I’m the best thing since sliced bread.

I can actually relate a lot to Lamott’s grief about writing reviews. As a writer for The Sting, a magazine publication at my school, my focus is writing reviews for the Games & Tech section of the paper, so I am always having to figure out how to write on how I felt about the game I had just played. I quite like the idea of writing an intentionally bad first draft, because by doing that you kill two birds with one stone. You have written material to work with and you also can start focusing on what can really help make the review a good informational source for anyone who might be reading it.

Being able to read that a professional writer still has trouble and worries about the content that she writes is a really big relief for me, because it shows me that my own worries are not invalidated. I should continue to push for being the best writer I can be, so I can spread my thoughts and ideas to the corners of the world for everyone to enjoy.