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Bird by Bird by Anne LamottIf you’re a writer or creative-type, you’re likely familiar with Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, a book that offers “some instructions on writing and life”. Bird by Bird is discussed and recommended so often in workshops, writing circles, and writer-to-writer that, even if you haven’t read the book, you’re likely familiar with two-thirds of its contents.

I must admit, reading the book was a bit of a let-down for me. All of its gems had reached me word-of-mouth and what remained were the narcissistic bits, which I could live without. Don’t get me wrong, Lamott is certainly entitled to her personal anecdotes, so please don’t hear me disparaging her (wouldn’t I love to write a book that people don’t have to read because everyone talks about it so much!).

Among her most notable advice is the concept of the “shitty first draft”:

All good writers write [shitty first drafts]. This is how they end up with good second drafts and terrific third drafts…. Almost all good writing begins with terrible efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something–anything–down on paper.

Well friends… and strangers (strange friends or friendly strangers), I’m about to take this advice to heart. And I’m about to take it to a whole new level. I’m calling it my diarrhea draft. 70,000 words by September 1st.

Why so extreme? Well…

  1. I’m a person of extremes. It’s all or none, love or hate, stop or go, with me.
  2. I start my Masters program in September. I need to empty everything inside my head (concerning this novel) onto paper.
  3. A literary agent wants to see the full manuscript when it’s complete. She read one of the early chapters and said “the quality of writing is ready to go to a publisher” (ha! I have some writing to do).
  4. I tend to be a perfectionist.

Perfectionism… will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and your shitty first draft. –Anne Lamott

I need this extreme measure–this diarrhea draft– to break free of the insanity and delusion of perfectionism.

Here’s where you come in. I’d like to enlist your support and encouragement– or better yet, your company! Are you working on a writing project? A first draft? Leave comments. Tell me about your progress (your goals and deadlines don’t have to be the same as mine). I’ll cheer you on and, please, do the same for me!

By the way, I was reading through some of my previous posts… I think you’d like these ones 😉 Textual Frustration and Co Violet by R. Dycavinu: The Literary Lessons I Learned


I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

Current status: 9,578 words