It’s hard as hell to re-enter the fictive dream I’d worked so hard to build. And the writing itself is excrement. I have to type with one hand and hold my nose with the other. Let me tell you, it’s painful to write so badly.
What keeps me going is Annie Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Lamott coined the term “shitty first drafts” saving legions of aspiring writers from committing seppuku. Most of us believe that the writers we admire sit down at their desks and gorgeous sentences come out the tips of their fingers and onto the page. Not true, Lamott tells us.
Here’s how she describes her process: “It’s over, I’d think calmly. I’m not going to make the magic work this time. I’m ruined. I’m toast. Maybe, I’d think, I can get my old job back…I’d get up and study my teeth in the mirror for a while. Then I’d stop, remember to breathe, make a few phone calls, hit the kitchen and chow down. Eventually I’d go back and sit at my desk, and sigh for the next ten minutes. ..and every time the answer would come: all I had to do was to write a really shitty first draft of, say, the opening paragraph. And no one was going to see it. So I’d start writing without reigning myself in…”
Don’t you feel like less of an idiot? I do. And once I have those pages I can shape them into something wondrous (or least, acceptable.)
My lesson? The next time Mr. Sweetie suggests a trip to Rome, I’ll think twice before leaving my manuscript behind.