shitty first drafts

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the act and process of writing. I am rereading Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott–my go to writing handbook when I’m wondering, how the hell do I start? What the hell am I doing? Am I actually insane for wanting to be a writer? (She assures me, yes, yes you are). I also read it when I just feel like laughing. Anne Lammott is hilarious, and it is one of the most helpful books on writing I have ever read. I think I owe a lot of my creative process to that book, and to her.

So. She has this concept called Shitty First Drafts. The idea is this–shitty first drafts turn into better second drafts and stellar third drafts, or sixty-seventh drafts. However long it takes. Pretty simple stuff, right?

Ira Glass thinks so too:

It’s all about doing the work. You’ve gotta get through that first draft, and that might take years.

I think this entire blog is my Shitty First Draft. Or at least, that’s how I’ve been feeling. I’m not trying to knock my own writing–it’s just that whenever I publish something on here, most of the time it’s just not…quite…there. It’s close. But not there. Anne Lammott talks a lot about how mortified she would be if anyone read one of her Shitty First Drafts. It’s a legitimate fear for her. And here I am–I’ve published almost every word of my SFD on the internet, for the entire world to see.


The SFD comes out like a child throwing a tantrum–it’s got a lot of energy to it, but it’s screaming and crying so loud that you can barely understand what it’s trying to say. And, perhaps worst of all, it begs for attention. But you’ve gotta get the SFD out of your mind and on to the page, or else you’ll never get to that stellar third or two-hundred-ninety-eighth draft down the road.

I think that my entire twenties are going to be a Shitty First Draft. And that’s finally becoming cool with me. Probably some of my thirties too.

I think a few of my relationships have been Shitty First Drafts. Yeah, that’s what was going on there.

Alright. I wrote a poem this morning. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope you all can look back on your own Shitty First Drafts with compassion and forgiveness. It was necessary. It had to happen.



I didn’t fall in love with anyone              in Whole Foods

so today was a success.

I didn’t make up a story in my head about the woman sitting across from me on Bart,

how she’s a healer that is going to invite me over to her house,

well maybe I did that a little bit

but I didn’t fall in love with anyone       in Whole Foods

so today was a success. 

I walked up to the abandoned house and for the first time saw smoke

twisting from the chimney 

and I thought about how that’s probably where the healer woman lives

with a lot of wind chimes and succulents, I was this close to knocking on the door

but I didn’t fall in love with anyone        in Whole Foods

so today was a success. 

She has three big dogs and long white hair, parted down the middle

and she’s a little fat but just the kind of fat that old people get,

her doctor isn’t worried.

Her daughter was killed in a car accident a long time ago, and even though these days she can

talk about it and sing along when Joni Mitchell comes on the radio, if you ask 

her how old she would be now,

she always knows the answer

but I didn’t fall in love with anyone         in Whole Foods

so today was a success.

She’s got green eyes and her husband left a while back, something 

about how he just couldn’t love her the way he knew she loved 


it made him guilty and sad, so he went and found someone who loved 


just a little less, they’ve got a few kids now and I think they go camping 

in the summertime 

but I didn’t fall in love with anyone in         Whole Foods

so today was a success.

She’s walking down the steep hill, dirt with green grasses on either side and 

she uses the old rake like a cane, you know,

just in case

because if she fell no one would know. It’s been unseasonably hot 

and she notices a single dot of orange on the bright hillside.

The first poppy of the season, she smiles. The evening sun slides towards the poppy, touches 

its petals and turns them gold, the woman has walked through the wet grass and is kneeled

next to the flower.

The skin of her hands has thinned over the years and brownish speckles have turned up

like constellations and she cups the poppy 

and admires its golden resilience 

but I didn’t fall in love with anyone         in Whole Foods

so today was a success.








1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Cynthia Abel
    Feb 20, 2015 @ 18:54:10

    This is a wonderful piece of writing- one of my favorites! Love you

    Sent from my iPhone



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