Posted on February 12, 2019
Nothing is ever perfect on the first try, but there is still that instinct to get everything right on the first try. It is one of the things you kind of just has to accept, that nothing will be perfect. There is a process to get things to close as perfect as they can be. That’s what Anne Lamott and Donald Murray write on in their respective pieces, “Shitty First Drafts” and “The Maker’s Eye”.
Lamott talks on the importance of the first draft and why it doesn’t matter if it is any good or not in her article. Lack of care for perfection in the first draft is important according to Lamott because “there are maybe something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means.” (Lamott, pg. 23). The first draft is not for anyone’s eyes, it just a place for your rambles to go from thought to paper. The process of editing is where the careful analysis of what, for you, and how you are writing belongs.
The exact process of how to edit and refine your shitty first draft is what Murray writes on. Throughout the article Murray lists seven things to focus on when editing, either to do them in seven steps or do in some combination that works best for you. The seven things in the order Murray lists them: subject, audience, form, structure, development, dimension, and tone. Each element helps elevate the quality of your writing, and they do not act independently of each. It is important to find a balance of each element. Murray talks about trying to find this balance with line by line editing, which is when you go sentence by sentence evaluating its value and how it fits in within the entire piece.
Both Lamott and Murray talk about the importance of critically listening to both praise and criticism in order to apply it to your writing. Each suggests taking the time to quiet all voices as you write and only let them in for short periods of time to hear them but not to take them at work. It is important to take in outside perspective and read your writing as an outsider, but you should not let them rule how and what you write.
Lamott and Murray impart many words of wisdom on the process of writing. There are a few that stood as the most helpful, such as writing the first draft without conscious thought, having a structured process of editing, and knowing the time and place for criticism.