This week I haven’t done much reading because I’ve been very busy writing. As I worked, I found myself more and more annoyed with the process of constantly writing and rewriting. I thought this would subside after I turned in my group project on Friday, but this frustration has reared its ugly head again today. Instead of giving up, I decided to do some reading about writing to get some help.
The book that popped out to me was Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott. Bird by Bird is a book that talks about the joys and sorrows of the writing process along with why we bother to write in the first place. Lamott isn’t afraid to air her own neuroses, and in the process she really nails what I think it’s the underlying terror being a writer can cause. It seemed like a good book to return to while writing is making me upset.
I grabbed the book of my shelf and went to the chapter called “Shitty First Drafts” (you can read what I think is a full excerpt of the chapter here). In “Shitty First Drafts” Lamotte talks about the idea that it’s ok to let a first draft of writing be terrible. You just have to get past the fear of starting and write whatever comes into your head. Once it is down you can go back to clean up and make the writing better, but you have to trust the process.
Near the end of the chapter, Lamott writes:
Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something–anything down on paper. A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft–you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft–you fix it up. You try to say what you have to say more accurately. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.
Reading this essay, grabbing a fresh cup of tea, taking a few deep breaths, and writing and rewriting this blog post has helped me calm down a little bit. I’m still a little annoyed, sitting here pecking away at a paper that lacks direction, but I feel more confident that at some point I’ll put the shitty first draft away, take a break, and come back to make the second draft good, and the third draft terrific.
Are there books you turn to for inspiration when you are frustrated (not necessarily with writing, but perhaps life in general)? How do these books help?