Writing is a process

My friend, @idrisayobello, posted a comment from Anne Lammot on writing in a WhatsApp group we both belong to, and that got me thinking about the writing process. The comment is in quote below:

Every writer you know writes really terrible first drafts, but they keep their butt in the chair. That’s the secret of life. That’s probably the main difference between you and them. They just do it. They do it by prearrangement with themselves. They do it as a debt of honor. They tell stories that come through them one day at a time, little by little. When my older brother was in fourth grade, he had a term paper on birds due the next day, and he hadn’t started. So my dad sat down with him with an Audubon book, paper, pencils and brads — for those of you who have gotten a little less young and remember brads — and he said to my brother, “Just take it bird by bird, buddy. Just read about pelicans and then write about pelicans in your own voice. And then find out about chickadees, and tell us about them in your own voice. And then geese.

So the two most important things about writing are: bird by bird and really god-awful first drafts. If you don’t know where to start, remember that every single thing that happened to you is yours, and you get to tell it. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.

You’re going to feel like hell if you wake up someday and you never wrote the stuff that is tugging on the sleeves of your heart: your stories, memories, visions and songs — your truth, your version of things — in your own voice. That’s really all you have to offer us, and that’s also why you were born.

On writing, I think if one has got the urge to write, one should just write. Your first draft and your end product will probably look like a mud house and a glass house. The writing process is unique and demands a lot of aloneness, so it’s important to do it when one feels the urgency to do it; it doesn’t matter where one writes or how one writes, what matters is the consistency and efforts one put into one’s writing. Remember, to write is to think and talk with deeper thoughts and clarity. Like the writer Tẹjú Cole once said: “writing as writing, writing as righting, writing as rioting, on a good day all the three together”, and to me that sums up what writing is all about.

You can read Anne Lamott’s book on writing – Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. For more books on writers and writing you can check out the treasure trove by Brain Pickings: Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers.

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