Broken-down Poetry: Sh*tty First Drafts


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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sh*tty First Drafts

I’m learning the fruit of my creative effort often ripens instantly. I’ll sit down and get thousands of words, but then a week later, working with the same discipline, will have nothing. But my job is not to make the words come. Who am I to make the words come? My job is no different than a farmer. I till the land. I fertilize the soil. I plant the seeds. Unlike the farmer, though, I am surprised when the green shoots sprout in the spring. I think perhaps it is magic, and it will never happen for me again. But the farmer knows if he tills the land, and is blessed enough to get rain, the harvest will come. Don Miller via


Author Anne Lamott encourages what she calls "shitty first drafts." Sometimes you just have to write. You don't feel it. You don't think you're producing anything worthwhile. But it doesn't matter all that much. You just need to write.

I'm there right now. As a writing and journalism double major, I spend most of my life writing. I write commercial scripts. I write essays. I write memoirs. I write nonfiction, fiction, creative nonfiction. I write news articles. I write emails.

Sometimes I can't keep myself going. My writing seems so very forced. For the most part, that's okay. I've learned that for newswriting, there's a formula that I can follow. My stories on online registration or a student's creative writing prize may not be interesting, but they're written correctly. Sometimes my scriptwriting rough drafts truly are shitty.

I like Don Miller's metaphor. Writing is like farming. It's habitual, first of all. You don't get plants without the process of tilling, planting, watering. Sometimes you don't get anything. Sometimes you get lush vegetation.

So right now, when I could care less about writing, I will write. I will finish this blog post. I will finish the essay I've hardly started. I'll keep thinking about the memoir piece I'm starting.


Scriptwriting Archive:
Broken-down Poetry, and what it means
The strenuous marriage of writing
Poetry as Therapy, pt. II

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