Shitty First Drafts

This is the section where Lamott begins to “demystify” the process of writing, and she does it by assuring the reader that everyone writes terribly at least once. No writer ever had a perfect first incarnation of their work, and accepting that can improve a writer’s state of mind. She tells the story of how she used to work as a food critic columnist and would be consistently scared to death that her terrible initial drafts of a column would be revealed to the public, shattering any illusion of her skill. But over time she learned to live with the shitty first draft, one of her many self-proclaimed “mental illnesses”, and wrote steadily superior second, third, and fourth drafts. Getting past that initial hump is all part of the procedure.

Despite the crass language, this way of thinking works perfectly with Nancy Sommers thoughts on revision. Both Sommers and Lamott believe in the idea of multiple drafts and how revision is essential to writing. In her paper “Revision Strategies of Student Writers and Experienced Adult Writers”, Sommers laments how the current-traditional pedagogy teaches a linear method of writing where revision is left out, “a separate stage at the end of the process” (pg. 378). Lamott’s idea of “shitty first drafts” is a powerful denunciation of that mindset, and is in full agreement with Sommers’ ideology.


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