Dear Ones, it is time and time again that we consider the importance of the Shitty Rough Draft.
It you are anything like me, you want things to come easily, you want them to be “right” (whatever that means) the first time out. You want to hit the ball out of the park every time.
Of course, we know life isn’t like that.
Or do we?
Do we allow ourselves “Shitty Rough Drafts”? Shitty Rough Drafts, or SRD’s, are something I first learned about from Anne Lamott in her book about writing, Bird by Bird. Her point is that in writing, we benefit from allowing ourselves just to write, letting it all hang out in that first rough draft with pretty much no regard as to the work’s aesthetic or any other “value.”
Its value is that you’ve done it. Its value is in your filling the page. Right now (and I’ll leave this part in after I edit it—teehee), I’m just writing. I’m just filling the page. I’m risking a Shitty Rough Draft. This is the “Get It Down Draft.” Maybe in a few minutes, I’ll do a “Fix It up Draft.” But I kind of doubt it. I think I’m much more inclined to let you see what there is to see in the process…
It’s like the upcoming month of National Novel Writing Month, or as it is more commonly called, NaNoWriMo. For the month of November, writers all over the world will produce at least 50,000 words toward a novel, memoir, or book of essays. Really, it doesn’t matter what it is. It matters that you do it.
It matters that you come to the page, come to the parenting, come to the stove, come to the garden, and do something. And ideally, that you do it consistently, with that gentle persistence I’m so fond of.
Another teacher, another writer whose work I admire is Julia Cameron. Her super-helpful and popular book, The Artist’s Way, has many wonderful concepts in it. One of them involves something she says to God: I’ll take care of the quantity; you take care of the quality. It matters that we, like nature, be profligate, generous, even promiscuous with the tasks of our art and everyday life.
What does all this mean in terms of our everyday lives?
What is the “quantity” of a life? What is a “quality”?
What is a Shitty Rough Draft in life?
The title of Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly comes immediately to mind. Let us DARE! Let us dare to put our Shitty Rough Drafts in front of those we trust, those we know will treat us gently. And then, once we’ve messed with them a bit, let’s put them out there in the world.
And let’s do it again and again.
My father, who was a brilliant supernova of a teacher, a professor of English who would have paid to do the work he was paid to do, was paralyzed by fear. While he loved teaching, he was never able to put his writing out into the world.
He wrote reams and reams and reams. Every day he wrote. A diary of life. “It’s how I unbend my mind,” he used to say. A way of processing what came to him in daily life and as he prepared for the classes he so loved.
Nevertheless, he could never dare a Shitty Rough Draft of something would go out into the world.
He could never overcome his fear of imperfection enough to show people his writing. And certainly, never to publish where people would judge, critique, and almost certainly someone would say something negative.
He had the quantity. But he didn’t have the daring.
One of the ways I’ve hoped to be like my father is by writing consistently.
One of the ways I’ve hoped not to be like my father is to be paralyzed by the fear I feel every time I put my words out into the world. Whether it’s preaching, teaching, blogging, or sending this letter to my beloved readers, I live with the fear that I’m sure my father would recognize, were he still alive.
Fear, even general anxiety, is an understandable feeling. For my part, though I am on a mission not to let them run the show. I want to write Shitty Rough Drafts. I want to dare to let my Shitty Rough Drafts show to those I trust—whether that’s actual writing or a way of living.
I want to DARE. I want to live and live and live with everything I have, letting the Divine teach me as we go along together. I want to learn to let Life support me even as my life is a fumbling, imperfect attempt at being myself, every day myself.
So today, I invite you to dare with me. Let’s “write” Shitty Rough Drafts. Whether it’s art or parenting or just practicing being who we hope to be, let’s practice. And let’s be gentle with ourselves along the way, knowing that sometimes the “freewriting,” the Shitty Rough Draft writing will be exactly that.
And that’s totally okay.
Let’s practice. Let’s dare!
Love, love, love—
Please Share the Wealth
One of the most important ways I get the word out about what’s happening at The Way of the River is through this love letter, Reflections. One of our comrades, a regular reader, has said,
“Catharine’s “newsletter” is more like a terrific sermon I can read at my convenience, mull over and read again. They are briefly yet densely written. Every single one makes me think or feel in new ways and I consider them a gift.”
I am honored that even one of you would say such a thing, and so I’m asking you to send this love letter on to a friend—or more than one!—and suggest to them that they sign up. They only need to click here to sign up.
They’ll get access to my discernment free gift, Your Perfect Day, and then they’ll get Reflections to read along with the rest of us!
Encourage them to check out my blog or anything else on the website, but most of all, please do ask them to sign up for Reflections. I truly value your trust and would love to hear that you’d sent this love letter on.