Words

Writing is tough.  In fact, the more I write, the more I hate it.  I begin writing with a beautiful landscape in mind.  The trees, rivers, mountains are all perfectly placed words that will touch my audience in just the right way.  There’s a happy little house sitting in the corner of my artwork.  There’s only one problem: I’m no Bob Ross (if you don’t know who he is…I’m sorry for your childhood).  My trees are upside down; my mountains are far too stiff.  I just can’t write the way I want to.  It’s as if the perfect words for my essay are locked away in a box, and I’m too immature to find the key.  Writing is a constant struggle.

Yet I’ve found that these struggles are the same reason I keep coming back to writing.  It’s that one beautiful phrase that I find in my first draft, or the perfect way I describe a situation.  It’s when I read a paragraph and know that my audience will feel exactly what I’m feeling.  If you’ve ever played golf, you know what I’m talking about—it’s that perfect, 300-yard drive that briefly disappears in the sun before landing softly on the crisp fairway grass.  You may have over one hundred other shitty, tree-seeking shots, but that one drive makes you return to the course round after round.  If only you could hit a shot like that every time, you know you could be really good.  And it’s the same with writing.  I keep coming back.

Anne Lamott’s Shitty First Drafts was actually pretty inspirational as I started writing my own Why I Write essay.  I usually feel like every draft I write needs to be perfect, but Lamott shed light on the idea that this isn’t necessarily true.  She notes that “the only way [she] can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts,” and that “all good writers write them.”  With my own Why I Write essay, I decided to take this idea to heart.  My first draft was embarrassing, but there were a few gems in there (most of those ideas are in this post).

I’m still refining my draft, still refining my ideas towards writing.  It’s tough, but my draft is progressing, and I’m hoping that whatever it ends up being is satisfactory enough.  At least no one has to read my first draft.

4 thoughts to “Words”

  1. I love your comparison you make between writing and golf. Casino-goers immediately came to my mind. I’m sure a person goes back to the casinos after winning big to try to continue his or her hot streak. I know my 86-year-old grandma does!

    I may be trying to stretch this comparison and extrapolate your point a bit too much. I believe, though, it is one worth exploring. How do you approach writing? Is it similar to the way in which you confront your golf game? For me, I understand that “shitty” first drafts are sometimes necessary, but I still don’t like doing them. For me, this may be due in part to the fact that I’ve done most of my writing for school, so I’m overly concerned about the grades I receive on papers. Do you feel the same way? . I think Stagan put it best that sometimes we have to trust the writing process

  2. I can totally understand why you come back to writing, its the challenge that draws you in. I agree with the cliche that, “there isn’t a shortcut for anything in life worth having. I feel the same way about my major: economics; that department is sooo hard and scary, and every other class in my schedule seems like such a blowoff compared to my econ classes–even if they are not. I’ve had my failures, but I know that after I study endlessly, and then something finally clicks, the “Yeah! That’s what it’s about” feeling makes it all worth it.

    Congrats on finishing your first draft, even if you don’t think its that great. Are you one of those people who just powers through an essay in order to get it done? I commend you if you are, I am not one of those people (I’m a break-it-up kinda girl). I totally agree with your last statement, “at least no one has to read my first draft.” Amen to that. I’m actually secretly-embarrassed that I have to scan my notes/first drafts into the computer and onto the archive so that the Sweetland researchers can read them. Bad news bears.

    I really enjoyed reading and responding to your post, I look forward to working with you on the essay/future blog posts.

  3. Its easy to relate to this post. I mean, writing is tough. There are times when I love it, and there are times when I hate it. And I think the stuff you said about Lamott’s Shitty First Drafts is definitely true. I’d like to be perfect on every draft, but its just not going to happen… ever.
    Your probably already done with the rough draft, and its good that you put all of this good material in there. Just expand on why you “keep coming back” because isn’t that “Why You Write” after all? Good work.

  4. RE: Writing

    Stephen, I am you.

    Up until now I thought I was the only one who write this way–looking for the perfect sentence say. Because we write in this way, I wonder if the process of writing is as excruciating of a process for me, as it is for you. But more importantly, I’m wondering if this means that our ego is what grounds us as writers as we search for the most thoughtful word to say to have the most impact. It seems that we are looking for our audience to have that famous “aha moment” that Oprah often speaks about, which affirms us as writers and not actually the process of writing. Or does it?

    Yes, Lamott laments that the process of writing multiple shitty drafts is not uncommon for writers, particularly the notables and hall of famers. However, the fact that writers aren’t keen on exposing this process of writing or being vulnerable to their audience in this way suggests some merit to the “sheer egotism,” which George Orwell recalls as being one of the motives that writers commonly source when writing.

    So, I suppose the follow up question to yours surrounds the conflict that’s themed around the blog question. What is more important? To operate in the school of Andrew Sullivan– capturing the immediacy of a particular moment that begs writers to create a historical record of a specific crisis or public outcry? Or is more thoughtful to channel George Orwell– being critical and attentive to every word written so that our audience can engage in the seriousness of the world around them?

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