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January 30, 2007

"Shitty First Drafts"

In the essay, “Shitty First Drafts� Lamott covered a lot of the repetitive paranoia and suffering he went through for each of his essays or reviews. I found it humorous that he emphasized his distaste for a certain writer who was able to write elegantly on her first drafts. Lamott states for his writing community, “we do not think she has a rich inner life or that God likes her or can even stand her,� and that “Muriel Spark is said to have felt that she was taking dictation from God every morning…One might hope for bad things to rain down on a person like this.� This only emphasizes Lamott’s personal struggle of starting out with “shitty first drafts,� along with his resentfulness for the few who have never met this problem (Lamott). Overall, however, he tries to convey that most writers aren’t gifted with first drafts like this woman, and that it is beneficial that first drafts don’t start out publishable. Lamott talks about how you may find something in your first draft that just comes out as you are writing it like “the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six,� but that this line would not have come about without the “first five and a half pages� (Lamott.) This kind of reminds me of the brainstorming techniques, as if Lamott personally uses the first draft as a half free write and a half draft. I could see this as a beneficial idea, because then there might be less pressure to make it perfect and organized exactly, like a more structured brainstorm. Lamott also tries to emphasize that even the professionals struggle, and that he would still become overwhelmed when he had to start a draft. This was comforting, although I wouldn’t doubt it. I’ve heard of some writers that revise pages over and over, one in particular was mentioned in Stephen King’s book, On Writing. The writer that King discussed would personally revise every page in his book 7 or 8 times (I think), and by the time he was done with it, the book would be ready to hit the shelves. Another thing that Lamott brings up a few times is his fear that someone will find his first draft and read it. Lamott states how he can let a character say something embarrassing or strange, and that it comforts him. I think that this is a beneficial idea, many times I feel afraid of what to write, but if I knew nobody would see it, I could just write, even if it didn’t belong because I know that I could remove it later and not have someone comment on it.

Lamott, Anne. “Shitty First Drafts.� Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Andover Books, 1994.

January 23, 2007

Chapter 7: Reading and Writing About Art

I took a Culture Studies 1001 course the previous semester, so many of the explanations of reading text is familiar and redundant (the introduction and the first part of chapter 7.) In the second part of chapter 7, however, I found the author’s analysis of paintings and the significance of the camera interesting. On the discussion of Franz Hal’s portraits of governors and governesses the author brings up mystification and seduction. I mostly agree with the author’s take on both these terms. It is definitely cultural similarities which give Franz Hal’s portraits a familiar feel to them, not the artist’s ability. In discussing the concept of mystification, the author states that “if we can see the present clearly enough, we shall ask the right questions of the past� (Silverman 471). I both agree and disagree with this statement. Understanding the present gives us a backbone to ask questions, compare, and see the changes of the past, however, I believe that mystification is unavoidable because we can only observe and understand so many things at one point before time has slipped away and the present has become the past. The author states that the invention of a camera could cut this boundary of time and perspectives of the world. He also explains how reproductions of paintings take away from the uniqueness of the original painting. I agree with this because to see a painting in person is saying something, but knowing what the picture looks like doesn’t mean as much anymore because it is accessible. Therefore, the paintings are seen as objects, money, or rare items. A good example would be the stereotypical tourist who goes to famous sites and art exhibits to get a picture taken of him/her with that famous piece that he/she has seen in pictures many times. The tourist doesn’t go to see the site for what it looks like since the tourist knows, but instead goes because it is famous or rare. The author also brings up the concept of authorship, which I already understand, and I agree with his perspective, which is that when a film or a picture reproduction is made, the painting no longer speaks for itself; the authority goes to film-maker or photographer. Alone, a painting or piece of art can speak for itself without other perspectives invading what it is saying, but reproductions often have words around them. I thought that the Vincent Van Gogh example, brought up a good point; writing that goes along with a painting that is not by the painter can alter the meaning of what the text is saying, thereby lending authorship, and possibly changing its place in culture.

Works Cited:

Silverman, Jonathon, and Dean Rader. The World Is a Text: Writing, Reading, and Thinking About Culture and It’s Contexts. New Jersey: Pearson, 2006.