Shitty first drafts.

Last night I met with my friends in the Artist’s Way group. We meet every other week and discuss chapters of Julie Cameron’s book and encourage each other’s path to “creative recovery.” Occasionally we share our own writing and get feedback. I shared a piece that I’ve been working on for two years now. I’ve changed the plot, the characters, the narration style, and pretty much everything else you can change except the original idea. I even posted a tiny portion of it on the HeSo Project eleven months ago (although I was referring to a different writers group at that time and the writing has changed significantly since then).

 

About two months ago, I started drafting the newest version of the story. I wasn’t sure where it would go, but I decided to share it with the group anyway. They might have thought they were giving me harsh feedback, but I found it so helpful. After that I worked for weeks taking in the suggestions I liked, and wrote a piece that I’m really proud of.

 

I was so touched last night when one of the women in the group said, “You changed my idea of what it means to revise something. Your first piece was good,” then she held up my new writing, “but this is great.”

 

English: Former basketball player Michael Jordan

English: Former basketball player Michael Jordan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

She went on to tell us she had always thought that to revise something meant admitting defeat – good writers have to get it right the first time, or else they are not real writers.

 

When I first start writing something I always remind myself that I am writing, what Anne Lamott calls, “a shitty first draft.” It’s completely liberating to know that it’s ok if it sucks. It can only get better!

 

If you’re starting new, give yourself the allowance to suck and the time to get better. Michael Jordan didn’t dunk his first ball.

 

 

 

6 comments

  1. Thank you for the pingback!

    I spent three days revising the first seven pages of my first chapter for an opening chapters contest (I won’t know for months if I won, so…) but the end result was SOOO satisfying. The words were all there, the pace, structure, characters, setting- but you have to let loose with everything, pour your guts out, no-holds-barred. Then let it rest, steep, percolate, even turn to beautiful, rich compost. From that initial shit, great things bloom!

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    1. It’s amazing to see how much our writing can improve if we don’t give up. I love your line: “From that initial shit, great things bloom!”

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