For a writer like myself, one of the worst moments in the course of a day is feeling like I have nothing to say. I will sit at my computer and stare a blank page, occasionally typing in a sentence and then immediately deleting that sentence because it sounds like crap. Today’s false starts included animal metaphors, Fox News, and whatever is going on with Donald Trump’s hair. Also, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a thing I like and alliteration is fun.
In her writing instruction text Bird by Bird, writer Anne Lamott talks about the “sh!tty first draft” in which a writer allows herself to be okay with a piece of writing that is initially not very good. I follow Lamott on Twitter and I’ve seen her tweet about the “sh!tty first draft” on multiple occasions. Sometimes she sanitizes the language in the tweet—a recent one said “poopy first draft”—which is hilarious given the lack of oversight on Twitter. I guess she’s revising her own ideas for the good of the Twitterverse.
Anyway, Lamott talks about how perfectionism is the killer of good ideas, which I find useful to my own writing but also often cold comfort to feeling like I have nothing to say. My computer is full of saved Word files that literally contain only one or two sentences about some topic that I felt really passionately about for all of two minutes. A few of these sh!tty drafts may someday become grown-up essays, but most of them will wither and be forgotten, likely deleted when I recycle my computer or junk it for scrap. Goodbye fleeting dreams—may you find your way without me. I guess this is probably a struggle for all writers, but screw those people—I’m talking about me here.
I am something of a perfectionist, though it may not always be apparent—if you read my blog from yesterday you saw how full of mistakes it was. In fairness to myself, I was late for an appointment and posted it without proofreading, which is always a terrible plan. (It’s been revised since then.) I do try to remember Lamott’s advice about getting the ideas down first and fixing the poopiness later. This is also something I tell my writing students, though most of them ignore me and operate under the Greek myth that good writing springs fully formed onto the page as Athena emerged fully grown from the head of Zeus. Practiced writers know what bullsh!t this is. “Talented” writers are probably just more adept at working, practicing, editing, fixing, changing, and agonizing over their own creations. Also, they invest a lot of their own self-worth into the work, so if you don’t like my writing you can shut the hell up. I love all my babies, even the ugly ones.
I’m not exactly sure where this is going right now except that it’s probably still not that far from sh!tty first draftiness, and I was struggling to have something meaningful to say this morning that was different than what I talked about earlier this week. I’m still distracted by the dress and pop culture mash-ups. Sadly, I think Pierre the Llama’s fifteen minutes of fame have already expired.
In summation, Donald Trump’s hair really should be explored more thoroughly, tomorrow I may talk about Andy Warhol’s often-quoted time limit on celebrity, and writing is actually a process. How annoying is that?