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Happy Birthday, Anne Lamott

Anne Lamott

I learned via the Writer's Almanac that today is the birthday of the Bay Area novelist and non-fiction writer, Anne Lamott.

Although I've mentioned my fondness for her work many times before, it's worth sharing a favorite piece of advice she's given to young writers. From (of course) Bird by Bird comes her notion of the "shitty first draft."

For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

The first draft is the child's draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, "Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?," you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you're supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go -- but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.

Lamott also mentions how she keeps a one-inch square picture frame on her desk. And every time she feels stuck, she picks it up and remembers that all she has to do to get started is fill one square inch with words.

Although I doubt she'd choose the title herself, Anne Lamott is a life hacker of the first order. Her tips for writers are practical, real, and stripped of the pretentious quill-pen affectations many of us grew up holding. Everyone I know who's read her stuff cites it as some of the most inspiring advice they've received, and most of us return to it often for a shot in the arm.

Anyhow, Happy 52nd to Anne Lamott, and thanks for the good stuff.

CoffeeCritters's picture

Ann Lamott, Bird by Bird... Happy...

Ann Lamott, Bird by Bird...

Happy birthday to Ann Lamott, the author of Bird by Bird, a book on writing and life. It covers a personal guide to living a writer’s life, and discusses dialogue, plot, character, setting, revision, point of view, writing groups, writer’s ...




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