Thursdays at The Variegated Life: on the creative life and shipping the goodies …
It’s not my idea; it’s Anne Lamott‘s. One of the best gifts that anyone has ever given me (it was from one of my many college roommates, upon graduation) is her book Bird by Bird (not an affiliate link, but do read the book, if you haven’t already). From the chapter on shitty drafts:
For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.
The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, “Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,” you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means.
In my experience, there doesn’t even need to be “something great.” The pages don’t need to be “crazy.” There doesn’t even need to be six of them (hardly!). There just has to be something. Something to work with. A start.
The Process That Follows
It’s been a tough year overall so far, and I’ve been having a tough time connecting in my writing. I’ve spent a lot of time staring at this rule (the rules are posted on the bulletin board above my desk) and wondering, process? I have a process? What the hell is that?
I’m glad I asked myself these questions and really pushed myself to answer, because however the writing has been going, I now know this much: I know what my process is. It’s pretty simple.
I write the next draft.
The moment I think I have to sit down and write a poem is the moment I give up. And so I never sit down to write a poem. I just sit down to write a shitty draft. And then the next draft. And then the next, and the next, and the next. Eventually, somehow, sometimes, an actual poem emerges.
And then sometimes I get lucky, and a poem pours forth, all at once, fully formed, like Athene from the mind of Zeus. In fact, my first published poem, which will be in The Mom Egg this May, came to me in this way one morning as I was waiting for the B23 bus in the rain. But, lovely as they are, gifts can’t be counted on. And they tend not to come, anyway, unless I’ve been showing up again and again, to write the next draft.
What’s your creative process?
Next Thursday: nobody wants to hear you complain.