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From Mess to Masterpiece

Posted on February 12, 2019

This week, in lieu of an upcoming assignment, I read through the works “Shitty First Draft” by Anne Lamott and “The Maker’s Eye” by Donald Murray. In their writing, these authors explain the process of drafting and invention, and the delicate ways in which a piece of writing is developed. Overall, central to both authors’ perspectives is the idea of using a first draft simply to put words to paper and begin to discover the work, rather than attempting to refine the work.

Beginning more generally allows for a much more creative and wholesome progression, allowing the writer to fully explore their writing before other eyes see it. In Murray’s words, a first draft is best used simply as an opportunity for the writer  to “discover what they have to say and how they can best say it”. Lamott states that “almost all good writing starts with terrible first efforts” and adds that, generally, “few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it”. For this reason, the process requires poor, messy first attempts to even develop a sense of direction. From this point, writers are able to find their own voice and understand what it is they want to write, allowing them to progress towards a finished masterpiece.

After reading the suggestions put forth by both writers, I have isolated a few main tips I believe will be especially helpful for my writing moving forward. First, as Lamott suggests, I need to quiet the voices in my head that critique my writing and instead write uninhibited. Next, I need to step back from the writing to see it as the reader would, ensuring that I tell my story correctly and purposefully. Once I have ensured I am saying what I mean, I need to direct my attention to the way in which I develop my work; Murray equates this step to a cook choosing how much garlic to use, “It depends on the cook, the casserole, and to whom it is going to be served”. By carefully making use of these tips, I believe I will be able to better focusm my writing and produce works that more efficiently reflect my purpose.




  1. Kelvin Chen

    I like how you quoted Lamott’s ,” few writers really know what they are doing until they’ve done it”. It speaks the lesser known truth that everyone can write. This is very inspiring for people who need to find their motivation to put their work out there. You had a good point about silencing the voices in your head. Writers need to trust themselves. It’s their story no one else should have a say in the matter. The garlic analogy will stick with me because I realized how important it is for every writer to have their own voice.

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