Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Writer's Inner Voices

For my class today, we talked about "Shitty First Drafts" by Anne Lamott. The overall gist of the piece (in case the title didn't give it away) is accepting that your first draft will not be any good, and you just need to get ideas down on paper and take it from there.

To start, I had the students do some freewriting on the "inner voices" they hear when they're trying to write. Lamott describes the characteristics of her own inner voices, and talks about how detrimental they are to her, in both the writing process and in her life in general. While the students wrote quietly, I also opened up my notebook and took my own advice. This is what I came up with:

What voices do I hear when I write? I feel like I start to ponder existential questions, instead of getting to the task at hand.
  • Am I a writer?
  • Was I meant to write?
  • Do I really have anything to say?
  • Hasn't it all been said already, by people much more successful and eloquent than I?
Although I guess it really depends on what I'm writing. If I'm writing for my blog, I compose a lot of it in my head before I ever get a chance to sit down and write. So once I do sit at the computer and open up a new blog post, the thoughts flow relatively easily.

If I'm writing fiction, I think I take the SFD approach and try to be a taskmaster. Tell myself to just keep my fingers moving, keep the words filling up the blank pages.

I also spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how I'd spend the money, if I ever became a "successful" writer. I imagine paying off all my debt, traveling, feeling justified in furnishing and decorating a really nice, welcoming office space—no expense spared.My favorite artwork, the most ergonomic Herman Miller chair, a top-of-the-line sound system. Because, after all, this is a professional space now.

But then I remember, before all that, I need to write. And rewrite. And get it published, and get people to like it and buy it. And then I get depressed and ask myself whether it's even worth starting.

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