Dreadfully Fearing the First Draft

Before I focus on the main prompt for this week’s blog, I want to talk about the relief that Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” bestowed upon me. It has become common practice in my scholarly career to commence work on papers precipitously close to the deadline. I was starting to accept that I am a slovenly procrastinator, but after reading Lamott’s chapter I think I may be a little too hard on myself.

She mentions that very few writers sit down with the confidence or enthusiasm required to produce solid work. And many experience fear and panic over that whether what they are about to attempt will be any good. With the swarm of voices and possible writing venues that are competing in one’s head at the onset of the writing process, it is difficult to draft papers. Personally, it is a time when I’m extremely critical and dubious of my writing, which really doesn’t make any sense considering it’s a first crack at a new essay. As Lamott explains, it is even more nonsensical to approach writing with such inhibitions when the writer realizes that no one is going to be seeing his or her first draft. She advises to just throw down on the screen whatever thoughts are in your head, then revise the “shit” out of it later.

Confidence from the getgo is one skill I plan to gain from the Writing Minor, optimistically another ULW class and especially before Writing 400 comes along. Instead of ruminating over every sentence or direction I could possibly begin my paper, I need to confidently spill my first thoughts and revise accordingly. Doing so will improve my writing and make my life better.

My “Why I Write” essay seems to be a good place to implement these resolutions. Of course, the biggest obstacle for me to overcome is the natural hindrance I feel when beginning a project. So instead of analyzing my gum structure in the mirror, I instead acquired some confidence and elected to create an outline, attempting to organize some of the possibilities for my paper. I am striving to maintain a clear mind and to not befuddle myself with feelings of inadequacy during the drafting process.

My essay is going to take cues from my first blog, in which I delved into how I view my writing and how much I respect other writers. I really enjoyed Sontag’s piece about writing, which I would like to incorporate into my paper. The author notes the connection between writing and reading, and how it’s easier to read and recognize a good author than it is to write yourself. Because of all the reflection I’ve done over the writing process, observing and analyzing my own weaknesses along the way, I think my main focus for the paper will be that I write to transcend and conquer some of these challenges. I think writing is an integral part of being a student and more importantly a person, so I think I write above all else in order to prove to myself that I can do it. I also plan to incorporate some quotes from authors who inspire me. I want to allude to their words and explain in my essay how I write to replicate their works and wisdom. We do far less writing as a culture than older generations did, and I think subsequently some of the human experience becomes lost. Why should I write only for school? Why is it no longer appropriate for me to attempt to write a story like I did in the third grade? While all of my thoughts are not meant to be preserved through history, a little confidence and conviction as a writer could allow all of us to produce something that will survive the test of time and inspire someone down the road.

One aspect of the paper that I find compelling is the self-reflective comments requirement. I’ve never used Word’s comment function because it has always been off limits to anyone other than a GSI. While being forced to judge my own work could perhaps make me doubt my initial attempts at writing this paper even more, I think it will in fact be a beneficial exercise. It should come in handy during the revision process, as it will allow me to zero in on the particularly convoluted portions. Who knows, maybe it will even be advantageous in its extraction of some of the voices that are skirmishing in my brain. Instead of closing my eyes, picturing them as mice, and locking them in jars, maybe a less odd means of focusing on drafting is to jot down anything that troubles me which I can later revisit to see if it’s a worthwhile consideration.

2 thoughts to “Dreadfully Fearing the First Draft”

  1. I completely understand your thoughts about the difficulties of a first draft. At some point in my writing career I too would like to be able to sit down and be confident enough in myself to simply start writing. Too often I sit down with the wrong mentality, which leads me to attempt to create a final product on the first go around. This is foolish because I not only waste valuable time, arguing in my head about which path is the best, but I also end up with ersatz work.

    I also appreciate your disappointment that the art of writing seems to be waning in our generation. Maybe I am simply being old fashioned, but I would argue that the new wave of social media is allowing our generation to communicate in pseudo-English where everyone speaks with an IQ of 14. Every time I hear the phrase ‘LOL’ or ‘LMFAO’ or ‘BRB,’ I want to hurl, and then subsequently yell at whoever said these blasphemous words, telling them that they are destroying our language and our most prized form of communication.

    I would also be curious as to why it is that you think our generation is writing less. I clearly have radical opinions, which more than likely place me in the vast minority, but why don’t you specifically write more? Is it that you have other hobbies where you would rather spend your time, or is it that you aren’t comfortable with the existing avenues for your writing? Or something completely different?

  2. Great post, and comment–this is the start of a REALLY interesting conversation, I think! What I especially appreciate about the post itself is that you’re looking to other writers as exemplars, for guidance, inspiration, etc. I also LOVE the idea of the marginal comments as the “glass jar” for the judge-y voices. And I am behind you 100% on aiming for drafting with confidence. One thing that would make this post even stronger would be to incorporate some imagery or video…what kinds of images might crystallize what you’re saying here? Also, Skylar, I’m with you on worrying about what social media, text-ese, etc. is doing to our writing, and at the same time, I wonder if we’re writing MORE because we have more outlets…a lot of scholars think in terms of different types of literacy. I’m on the fence about where I stand there, but I think the passion with which you respond to social media writing means it’s a conversation worth continuing! I love the questions you posted at the end of your comment for that reason.

Leave a Reply