Posted by: 2in10 | 08/20/2011

is it ok to say a bad word?

I was sorting through books last week, collecting volumes to donate, when I came upon this old favorite: Anne Lamont’s Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

The third chapter, “Shitty First Drafts,” has been my inspiration for years. First, Lamont named it so clearly. And she gives advice that has helped me immensely in my writing:

“Now, practically even better news than that of short assignments is the idea of shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts…”

“…The first is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place…”

“A friend of mine says that the first draft is the down draft — you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft — you fix it up. And the third draft is the dental draft, where you check every tooth, to see if it’s loose or cramped or decayed, or even, God help us, healthy.”

This advice applies to many things, including our efforts to get well and stay well. We shouldn’t let anyone discourage us from taking care of ourselves, even if the first things we try aren’t the ones we continue to use. They are a first draft and there are more and better to come.


ISBN 0-385-48001-6 Originally published: New York: Pantheon Books, 1994.


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