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"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.