Sunday, January 06, 2008

Quoteskimming

Gah! It's almost day's end, and in a sudden forehead-slapping moment I remembered that today was Sunday, and Sunday is quoteskimming day, and I hadn't yet done it. Never fear, however, I am squeaking under the limbo pole. Heck, I'm still able to make it without serious contortion.

About poets and other solitary writers

A word about the woman whose book of poems I'm still wending my way through, the lovely Miss Emily Dickinson, from an interesting source, TV character Lisa Simpson. Yes, from The Simpsons:

"Solitude never hurt anyone. Emily Dickinson lived alone, and she wrote some of the most beautiful poetry the world has ever known... then went crazy as a loon."

About first drafts

According to Bernard Malamud, a Jewish writer described as a sort of human version of Eeyore by Jay Cantor (the quote can be found in this article, although use of the name Eeyore is mine, and not Cantor's), a first draft is:
"the most uncertain——where you need guts, the ability to accept the imperfect until it is better."

According to John Dufresne, who wrote an article for The Writer back in October of 1992, which got reprinted in September of 2007:
Writing a first draft should be easy because, in a sense, you can't get it wrong. . . . You have nothing to prove in the first draft, nothing to defend, everything to imagine. . . . You write the draft in order to eread what you have written and to determine what you still have to say. . . .
You must have the courage to allow yourself to fail. The first draft is where the beginning writer most often finds himself blocked, to use a conventional, though perhaps misleading, verb.


I highly, heartily recommend that everyone get their mitts on a copy of Dufresne's article, entitled "Write a first draft to FIND YOUR STORY: If you allow for spontaneity and surprise, a story will reveal itself to you in the writing" (yelling bit of the title as in the original). I've not yet read his book, The Lie That Tells a Truth, but I rather suspect that a version of this article (or its information) is contained therein. Particularly since GoogleBooks was able to give me an excerpt that confirms that bit of info.

I know lots of you writer sorts are big fans of Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, and myriads of fans quote her advice to allow oneself to write a "shitty first draft." What Dufresne does a bit later in the article I've cited and quoted above is tell you how to write a shitty first draft:

Do not try to write beyond what the first draft is meant to accomplish: Do not demand or expect a finished manuscript in one draft. The worst thing you may do in writing the first draft may be to focus on the form or content of the story. Do not even consider technical problems at this early stage. And do not let your critical self sit at your desk with your creative self. The critic will stifle the writer within.

Along those lines, a quote from Jane Austen

". . . why did we wait for any thing?—why not seize the pleasure at once? How often is happiness destroyed by preparation, foolish preparation!" Frank Churchill in Emma.

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