Reassessing Crap

In one of my favorite writing books, BIRD BY BIRD, Anne Lamott discusses writing “shitty first drafts.” It’s a necessary evil for writers and sometimes I forget to extend that truth to my own work.

On Christmas of all days, I printed out my work in progress, got comfortable on our Costco couch and started reading. By the end of my draft I determined that it was crap.

I couldn’t believe that I had been so excited about what I had been creating–the foundation seemed strong, the structure dependable, the characters lively and authentic. Then why did my story seem to fall apart in certain key moments?

I took a break, ate Chinese food with the extended family while also playing some rounds of Switch video games with my 9-year-old nephew (soundly beaten every time) and then returned back to the manuscript. I figured out the err of my ways. First of all, with the holiday busyness, I had failed to totally immerse myself in my writing. I didn’t take deep dives and fail to stay underwater. Instead I was dogpaddling in shallow waters so that I could keep an eye on what was happening around me. As a result, I had just taken sections that I had written earlier in my outline and stuck them where I thought they had belonged. As a result, it was not seamless. The stitching was crude and the fabric totally wrong. Why was I having my characters say things that they never would for the sake of advancing the plot?

So later that evening I removed the ugly stitching that connected these sections and began to completely overhaul what I had written. I’m still working on it now, but I’m realizing that it wasn’t all crap. Only that some of it was.

Happy New Year!


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