That is where the art lies

Yesterday I wrote about how if you’re unsure of what to write, just resolve yourself: this is going to be a shitty post.

That way you’re always pleasantly surprised. And if it really is shit? It just lived up to expectation.

There’s a reference in that post to a writer named Anne Lamotte. I know her from a book called Bird-by- Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

If you’re interested in furthering your craft as a writer, pick up that book. Read it cover to cover.

In the book, she talks about shitty first drafts. Basically, every piece of work you’ve ever read, seen, or heard about, from Hemingway to Kurt Vonnegut, started as a really, really shitty first draft.

I remember reading a book called On Writing Well by William Zinsser. Clear, concise, and actionable. In a passage about shitty first drafts, he showed the reader his shitty first draft of trying to explain shitty first drafts. It was quite meta in retrospect. There were crossed out lines, meandering thoughts, and non-descriptive adverbs that would just creep in. In a book where the writer was respected enough to write a book explaining how to write well.

And through editing, Zinsser’s book melted pleasingly into a concise and clear book of guidelines.

Anne Lamotte did the same thing in Bird-by-bird. Showed her first draft. It was also shit. Less shitty than my first drafts, but still pretty bad.

So resign: whatever I write is going to need revision. Hemingway revised, and we’re not special enough to be exempt.

So we go back and get rid of all the unneeded words. Maybe delete whole paragraphs, even though we like them, just because sometimes don’t fit.

Whatever you do, revise. Because somewhere in that word vomit are diamonds. Surrounded by a lot of shit. But there are diamonds in there. Our job is just to vomit on a page and then clear away the shit to get to what matters. Maybe the one or two kernels that are great concepts in a five hundred word piece.

And once we get there, it’s our job to take away as much as we can without rendering the piece senseless and without structure.

That is where the art lies.

Help send me to Southeast Asia! Here’s the link to my gofundme page, any help is appreciated. And if you send me your email, I’ll write you a personal note thanking you for your contribution:)

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