Yes, “Shitty First Drafts,” is the title of a chapter in Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird (Anchor Books ed. Oct. 1995). And a fine chapter it is. Here are my three favorite quotes from the chapter, which I highly recommend you read if you are interested in writing.
“…shitty first drafts. All good writers write them. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts. People tend to look at successful writers, writers who are getting their books published and maybe even doing well financially, and think that they sit down at their desks every morning feeling like a million dollars, feeling great about who they are and how much talent they have and what a great story they have to tell; that they take in a few deep breaths, push back their sleeves, roll their necks a few times to get all the cricks out, and dive in, typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter. But this is just the fantasy of the uninitiated.” (p.21)
Haven’t we all thought the Hemingways of the world wrote like that? I agree with Lamott. It’s all a fantasy, fiction at its best.
“…the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.” (p.22)
Sound familiar? Her words sure rings bells between my ears.
“Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something–anything–down on paper.” p.25)