With the exception of this capstone course, every single English class I have taken at the University of Michigan has started with the same reading assignment: “Shitty First Drafts” by Anne Lamott. The first time I read it was in English 125. While I didn’t understand its purpose from the beginning, I eventually grew to see the necessity of being able to just write.
I didn’t have to have a defined beginning, middle, and end to put pen to paper. In fact, writing could begin with a mere fragment of an idea and — eventually — blossom into something much bigger. Within this context, this piece served its purpose. At the end of my first semester, I was no longer afraid to dive into this seemingly scary and undefined task.
Who’s to say if my current state of fearlessness is developed after analyzing this piece on five different occasions or not. What I do know, however, is that my newfound bravery has inflicted a different, more pertinent limitation on my writing process.
I don’t know what to write.
It’s not that my brain is sleepy or my creativity is lagging but, instead, I have too many ideas.
When I sit down to write, I can’t even decide which words to haphazardly throw into my shitty first draft because there are just too many. Do I write about the role that food and cooking have in my life? Should I delve into my relationship with my mother? Would anyone be interested in reading about my experience playing the carillon? Probably not.
I wish I could find a way to sort all of these tidbits and potential project ideas. I need a way to put it all on the page and know which ones I am interested in the most. What are some qualities of a good project? What do I avoid? How do you sort through the mess?