Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Firest draftsw

I've left the title the way I originally typed it, because that's what my first drafts look like, when the typing is often the best thing about them.

The novelist and writing guru, Anne Lamott, says, "The only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts." In her wonderful, comforting, inspiring book Bird by Bird, she says. . .

"What I've learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head. First there's the vinegar-lipped Reader Lady, who says, primly, 'Well, that's not very interesting, is it?' And there's the emaciated German male who writes these Orwellian memos detailing your thought crimes. And there are your parents, agonizing over your lack of loyalty and discretion; and there's William Burroughs, dozing off or shooting up because he finds you as bold and articulate as a houseplant; and so on. And there are also the dogs. Let's not forget the dogs, the dogs in their pen who will surely hurtle and snarl their way out if you ever stop writing, because writing is, for some of us, the latch that keeps the door of the pen closed, keeps those crazy ravenous dogs contained."

She then shares a little exercise a therapist taught her as a way to hush those voices. Basically, the exercise amounts to turning all those people into mice and dropping them into a glass jar and putting the lid on it.

"A writer friend of mine," Annie says, with her trademark wit, "suggests opening the jar and shooting them all in the head. But I think he's a little angry, and I'm sure nothing like this would ever occur to you."

Bang. :)



41 comments:

Nancy P said...

I look forward to waking up to coffee and YOU!

G'night.

AndiF said...

Good morning.

Good thing I don't write professionally because I've already got more than enough mice in the house as it is.

Family Man said...

Morning Nancy and Andi.

I'm like Andi, except I've got ants.

katiebird said...

Good Morning!! Hi Nancy. Hi Andi.

maybe that's what's wrong with me, I've got mice in my head?

FARfetched said...

Late wake-up as usual here — the coffee will come from town.

The internal critic is a boggie I'm well acquainted with. The one that's harder to ignore is the one that is afraid I'll succeed. (Mice? Ants? If only. I killed two very large spiders last week — one in my bedroom & one in the bathroom.)

Speaking of first drafts, I did get the poem down — which wasn't as easy as it should have been. Maybe I need to just dump the thoughts as they come instead of trying to refine them in my head through the day…

Beth said...

Morning, everyone - except that I doubt Nancy is up yet, noting the time she posted this -

I love that book, Nancy! When I read it, I went to my mss and tried out her suggestions, and they did indeed improve it. And she's so much fun to read.

I'm getting better at just getting it down on paper before I edit, but I still find myself saying "Oh yeah, I wanted to do this back here" or "Wait, that had to happen back there." I'm still learning. Hence my warning to folks not to be too impressed at the number of words I write in a day, because many of them are, indeed, shitty. :-)

Thanks for the reminder!

Nancy P said...

Morning andif, family man, katiebird, and farfetched. I think we'd better call an exterminator.

Jen said...

Bang.

Oh, this made me laugh. And what a wonderful excerpt, too.

Writers are some of the only people in the world who get to talk freely about the hundreds of voices in our heads and not have to worry (too much) about being institutionalized or discredited for it.

Nancy P said...

Hi, Jen. Lamott's wonderful about all the arguments and conversations she's constantly carrying on with invisible people. Me,too.

The one of her Voices that gets to me is the damned Burroughs voice, possibly because he lived just up the road in Lawrence. That voice has me convinced my Three Muses are Trite, Bland, and Boring. Along with their first cousin, Shallow.

Rat-a-tat-tat!

Nancy P said...

If Conda comes along today, I want to ask her about the Seventy Days of Sweat writing experiment. It's like the "Novel in a Month," only, well, longer.

Kelly McCullough said...

Hi Nancy,

Your title note for this just about cost me a soggy cat and keyboard. Very funny.

Plain old Earl Grey Whitetip this morning. Tea source: Made from fine Chinese teas with a large portion of white tips (the most prized leaf of the plant) and blended with the finest oil of bergamot available. Incredibly aromatic and flavorful.

P.S. Thanks for the compliment over at Wyrdsmiths (or at least the part of that related to me) and I'm sure Tate is pleased too. The small herd of us who post there gets confusing from time to time, especially since the cross links are dense. Lyda is also Tate (both of whom are published). Lyda and I often guest teach for each other. Naomi and I both have readings at Dreamhaven in the next two weeks. Tate and I are sharing two signings this month, etc.

GhostFolk.com said...

Mice in a jar. Dang.

The brain is not our friend. :-)

It wants to win.

If you sew your fingers to your heart, you can write anything.

I promise.

Kelly McCullough said...

Ooh, two more things:

Hi everybody! That's the important one.

On the internal editor front, I'm not terribly useful because my internal editor's a jolly soul who says, "ah it's just words, if they're bad we'll fix 'em later." But both Tate and Doug have generated some good discussion on the subject in the past. If anyone's interested go here and scroll down to the Wrestling With The Internal Editor links.

Kelly McCullough said...

Hi Ghostfolk.

"sew your fingers to your heart" sent a little chill down my spine. Metaphorically great advice, but apparently my brain's a little to literal for metaphor at the moment because I've got a really vivid image that's more than a bit creepy.

GhostFolk.com said...

Metaphor?


[ :-) ]

Nancy P said...

I was soo confused, Kelly, lol. And surprised to find your family was bigger than I realized. :)

Nancy P said...

lol, ghost.

Somedays I have a bad seamstress.

Kelly McCullough said...

Nancy, I quite understand both types of confusion.

If you ever do see me posting about my children and I don't mention that A, I am making this up, B, they have four legs and fur (I don't think of my cats that way, but I might become feverish), or C, I have suddenly adopted one, you can safely assume that I'm either delusional or someone else is pretending to be me.

Not only do I prefer that the children I interact with are easily returnable, but at this point it's a biological impossibility on several fronts. I don't really have anything against children I just don't have any desire to have my own.

Nancy P said...

Especially ones that throw early-morning trantrums, lol.

FARfetched said...

Heh. my Three Muses are Trite, Bland, and Boring. Along with their first cousin, Shallow.

Riiiiiiight.

I have one Muse, her name is Olga, and she wears a leather corset, thigh-high boots, and carries a bullwhip. "I haff given you idea. You sit down and write!"

Man Eegee said...

[makes mental note not to visit Farfetched until house is exterminated]

Good morn....damn. Good afternoon, everyone! The noon hour just ticked on my clock. Today is one of those eye-of-the-hurricane days where a lot of chaos is swirling around in bands of mischief while my personal bubble of existence is quite calm.

Speaking on-topic, I've come to realize that one of my muses' names is Isidora

Kelly McCullough said...

Hi Man E,

Muse? Hmm. Don't know about a named one, but I've referred to mine with a long "ooh" sound instead of the traditional "eue" often enough that some friends did me up a beanie baby moose in a classical greek tunic with a ring of laurels around its antlers.

Conda said...

It's late in the day, Nancy, but I made it here. The link to the 70 days of sweat is longer, 93 days total, with 23 days off. Here's the link:
http://70daysofsweat.com/wordpress/

I've already found, day three, that it's helping me focus. And hopefully, it shuts up the mice for this rough draft...

okay, glass bottle, any holes in the lid?

Nancy P said...

far, that made me laugh so hard! Ms. Olga does not like it when we laugh.

Man Eegee said...

hi kelly. that's awesome. I have a 3D pillow that a friend gave me with a trio of moose that she acquired during her stint at an Alaskan resort job. I call it the meese pillow.

Nancy P said...

Manny, you win the extended mnetaphor prize of the day! Your prize is like a red, red rose. No, wait, that would be a simile. Give back the rose. G i v e b a c k the rose. . .

Your prize IS a rose. Not a real rose, because that would not be a metaphor. Your prize is thin air. Like a metaphor. If it weren't a simile.

NO more metaphor contests!

Nancy P said...

Ew, I couldn't sleep on a pillow that made me think of Ed Meese.

Man Eegee said...

Upon reading the award comment:

[moose in headlights look]

;)

Man Eegee said...

Lady Justice gives up, too.

Nancy P said...

Thanks, Conda. Keep us posted on your page progress. We want to be jealous as the pages pile up.

It is very hard to use the word "page" without alliteration.

Nancy P said...

lol, Manny!

(I have to go to the groc store, then I'll try your links.)

Nancy P said...

NOTE FOR BORAN2

b2, I'd like to post your newest painting on my front page tomorrow or the next day, if that's okay with you. ? I'll post one of katiebird's exhibit photos, too,. if that's okay with her. I'd like to brag on you guys.

boran2 said...

Nancy, Given your cast of characters, writing sounds like a potentially dangerous way to earn a living. ;-)

boran2 said...

Nancy, I just read your note below. Feel free to post away, and thanks very much!!!

Nancy P said...

lol to the first comment, b2, and thanks to the second one!

katiebird said...

:) This is so NICE, Nancy. Just let me know which one....

Nancy P said...

One of the bridge? You choose! I like them all.

Cathy said...

A few days late here, but I couldn't resist. I am slogging my way through a first draft after a significant time spent revising and polishing a manuscript that is now out hunting for an agent. The contrast is painful. And the voices are taunting me, "You think you can do this again, sweetheart? Ha!"

I like the idea of turning them into mice. Thanks for chuckle, Nancy.

-Cathy C.
(who's heading out to buy a very large glass jar.)

Nancy P said...

lol! Make sure it has a very tight lid, Cathy.

I WISH I had a first draft to polish. :)

Ed Gorman said...

Big Anne Lammott fan here. As a lapsed Catholic with sentimentl impulses for certain aspects of the Church...I was stunned to hear that Creighto (?) dropped her as a speaker when someone there in the Catholic KGB discovered that she'd written about assisted suicide during the time of her cancer. She ddn't recommend it or support it--just said she thought about it. That was when I remembered all the things I hate about the Catholic church.

Nancy P said...

Hey, Ed! I'll say one thing for the stricter forms of organized religion--they sure have given birth to a passel of great writers, most of them fueled by anger.