First Drafts


Anne Lamott is one of my new favorite authors (she’s been writing for a while— I’m a little late to the game), and this quote of hers is also one of my new favorites: “Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something— anything— down on paper. What I’ve learned to do when I sit down to work on a shitty first draft is to quiet the voices in my head.”

When people ask what I like to do, I say, “writing,” almost without hesitation. When they ask what I’m good at, though, I say something like cooking. It’s true; I am pretty good at cooking. I make really good scrambled eggs, I can throw together a stir-fry out of whatever’s in my fridge, and I almost never mess up a batch of muffins. But when it comes to writing, I don’t like to say that I’m good at it, because there’s always a chance that I might actually suck.

The thing about writing, though, much like cooking, is that it’s messy. I’m trying to remind myself more often of what Lamott says: it’s okay to suck sometimes. It’s definitely okay to suck during the first draft.

Really, that’s the thing about life. I look back on my first semester here, and it’s like remembering a completely different person. I came into college wide-eyed and more terrified than I care to admit. I was a little lonely, a little lost, and more than a little messy (both figuratively and literally— shoutout to my freshman roommate for surviving a year in our room). I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, what group of friends I should join, or really who I was at all.

Then came second semester, and it was a bit like a second draft. Things slowly but surely started to fall into place, and I felt more confident, more at home, and more excited for the clubs and organizations I joined. Sophomore year has been even better; with each passing semester, I feel like I really am growing up and becoming more at peace with my own personality. I’ve learned so much about both others and myself, and I feel the need to “rewrite” far less often. I’m no longer so apprehensive— I’m excited for what’s to come.

I could fill up pages with all the things I’ve learned since coming to college, but I won’t bore you with too much rambling. And so, behold, a brief list:

[if !supportLists]1. [endif]Don’t compare your draft to someone else’s.

[if !supportLists]2. [endif]Don’t ever assume yours is finished.

[if !supportLists]3. [endif]You can always start writing a new one.

Growing up is an interesting sensation. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it’s wonderful, and most of the time it’s somewhere in between. I’m only 19, so I have a lot of growing left to do, and I sometimes still feel like a mess, but it’s okay. First drafts are allowed to suck. Even second ones, and third ones, and sometimes even beyond that.

I can always keep rewriting. After all, what can I say? English majors really love metaphors.

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