Archive | June, 2011

“Pound some shit out!”

4 Jun

I have been blogging since before it was called blogging. I started my first “internet journal,” as I called it back then, in 1999. There was no WordPress, no Blogspot, not even a MovableType. All we had was LiveJournal and a handful of personal sites, known as Everything/Nothing websites using frames and lovingly hand-crafted archival systems. I have had more blogs than I can count, on every platform imaginable, but I went through a period of several years when I didn’t blog at all. I felt like I had run out of things to say. I hated my writing, felt like my life was stagnant and uninteresting, and I fell silent.

A fellow blogger and good friend sent me a message one day asking why I hadn’t written a blog entry for so long and telling me to “Just pound some shit out already!” I wished that I could take her advice, but I was crippled. Or, at least, I thought I was. I was so afraid that anything I pounded out would be shit that I refrained from creating at all. This was a terrible idea, and I have lost countless memories and stories due to this anxiety.

Now I know, thanks largely to Anne Lamott, that all first drafts are shitty first drafts, and that 90% of the time a writer has no idea where she is going when she sits down and starts to write. You have to be willing to surrender yourself to the process and the journey of writing, and allow it to take you where it wants to go. You may be kicking and screaming for much of the time, and you may hate every single word that comes out of you, but it is important that you get those words out. Most of what you write may not be publishable, but what is important is to get yourself in the habit of writing. Make it part of your daily routine. Another writer friend gave me this bit of advice when I was a teenager suffering with severe writer’s block: “Every day you ignore your craft, it ignores you for three.”

That terrified me back then and it still terrifies me today. I don’t know about you, but I’m a middle child and I can’t stand being ignored, let alone for three days straight! So, even if the only writing you do today is a blog entry on writing or a journal entry on what happened to you while waiting in line for coffee this morning, it is important to pound that shit out and be unafraid of what might happen. After all, nobody has to see it if you don’t want anyone to, and slogging through all of that shit will feel so worth it when you write something you feel genuinely proud of. You cannot hone your craft, any craft, without practice.

“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway (who was kind of a jerk, but I like this quote anyway)

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