Let’s leave this discussion wide open. What did you love or loathe about Lamott?
Although at times she gets a little “new-agey” for me, I am greatly reassured, in an odd way, by how difficult writing is even for gifted writers and those who make a living doing it.
Someone once said: If you think writing is hard, that’s because it is. Sportswriter Red Smith said: “Writing is easy. All you have to do is open your veins and bleed.”
For some reason, we think writing should come easily. Yet we don’t presume that about other crafts or skills – athletics, carpentry, cooking, dance, music. We often have this mystical view of writing, that it somehow happens magically for good writers. Although the effect of writing can be magical, writing itself isn’t. It is a craft that you can learn and improve upon with practice and guidance – just like any other skill.
Does anybody else use Lamott’s strategy of writing pages of garbage (what she calls “the child’s draft”) because only when you do that will you finally reach the point where you want to start? Clark and Fry advise something similar: “So just type a draft. Get it down, then get it right.” Clark admits to “typing two screenfuls of junk.”
The “garbage strategy” has been remarkably effective for me. I can write graf after graf of dreck and not care at all that it’s dreck – no one will read it except me. And always, at the end of the dreck, I arrive at the nugget of what I’ve been trying to say all along. It is magic!
It works for me because my brain can’t separate writing and thinking. I can’t write without thinking, and I can’t think without writing. This is why I am lousy at chess. My “child’s draft” is my stream of consciousness on paper; I wouldn’t even call it “writing.” But I can’t think about complicated things without writing. Somehow, out of my messy, chaotic, frantic typing, clear, coherent thoughts emerge. And then I can truly begin to “write.”
What did you think of what she had to say, about first drafts or perfectionism or anything else?