Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Re-visiting Bird by Bird - Thoughts on First drafts and perfectionism

I'll do two in one this time because to me they're connected. Rough or first drafts and perfection.

Probably one reason I enjoy this books so much and that it inspires me is because I'm a draft writer. I tend to write a first draft that literally is one only I could love and I would never let anyone see it. Anne Lamott believes there's nothing wrong with a bad first draft. I absolutely agree and often for me whole scenes are completed in a sentence. There is a big fight here. They make love. The murder takes place here. Other scenes are wanderings and wonderings, but out of these usually come material I can use by rewriting, re-thinking or expanding. There are also things that are shredded so no one can see them. Just remember this "There is nothing wrong with a rotten first draft."

As to perfectionism. For me this is impossible. I've read things I've written that when I wrote them and when they were published I thought were perfect. Later when re-reading them, I saw places where they could be made better. So why did I stop before I reached perfection. Probably because I was so sick of tweeking the story that it no longer seemed anything I was interested in. I told someone I stopped revising when the story made me want to spill my guts.

Reading the pages on perfectionism also brought a memory to mind. Like Anne Lamott I had my tonsils removed when I was probably twenty. I was a nursing student and had assisted at a tonsillectomy as my first scrub. After they picked me off the floor, the doctor told me to scrub again and get back to work. Then I endured my own battle with the knife and the suction. My throat hurt. The pain felt like razors and swallowing was the pits. Now a nurse told Ms. Lamott to chew gum. That was not my poison. When I got home I poured a glass of orange juice. My mother thought I was crazy but didn't stop me. I drank that just down and funny thing, though it hurt, once my eyes stopped tearing, I realized the pain was little more than an ache.

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