Child’s Draft, Then Wildly Coloured Self-Edit: Inspiration!

In her amazing book, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott writes, “The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place…. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him…. there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something … you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about … ”

Life. This is life, it really is. And writing, too, because writing comes out of life.

So all this sentimental stuff I’ve been getting down, “bleeding all over the page” as a friend put it, might be worthwhile after all. Might be? Lamott says here: No — it IS worthwhile! There are bound to be be a few inspired gems in among the blah, blah, blah. Blah, blah? Maybe that’s what it seems to be at first glance, and yet, apparently, it’s the path to the gold. So yes, it has value. So yes, I’m not wasting my time? Hurrah!

She continues to explain, “The next day, though, I’d sit down, go through it all with a colored pen, take out everything I possibly could, find a new lead somewhere…, figure out a kicky place to end it, and then write a second draft. It always turned out fine, sometimes even funny and weird and helpful. I’d go over it one more time and mail it in.”

Mail it in. Or hit the publish button on the blog. Or maybe even on the book, someday. Can I do that? After some serious self-editing, of course.

I’m thinking that maybe I’d self-edit a lot better on paper, where I can spread out the pages on the table in front of me and look back and forth and see the whole picture. And then do the “taking out” and move things around, and add stuff and reword stuff. And see it altogether, in black and white, on paper, like an awesome poster where I can see it all in one glance.

Some folks like a word processor for self-editing. But still, you can only see part of a page at a time. And then, there’s really something about using a pen — or a whole bunch of them, in lots of wonderful, bright, hopeful, even sometimes angry — colours, for really “thinking” — and “hearing” too — in a physical, wonderfully grounded, real-life way. Yes there is.