One of my moments of greatest relief as a writer—equal, perhaps, to the swell and crest of learning that my first novel would be published—was when, decades ago, my Intro to Creative Writing professor assigned Anne Lamott's “Shitty First Drafts” and I arrived at this passage: “Very few writers…go about their business feeling dewy and thrilled. They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow…. For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous.” Before reading this, I had believed something was wrong with me. I loved writing; I knew I loved writing. But also, I hated writing. To put a finer point on it, I squirmed with discomfort at the act of putting words on the page. Often, the only way I could write was to curl into the fetal position in my desk chair and rock, clunking my forehead against my knees, until eventually, reluctantly, tremulously, I'd lift my hands to the keyboard and peck out a word. It is a strange feeling to be both compelled to do something and repelled in the doing of that same thing. What relief to discover that other writers, published ones yet, felt the same way! Writing is uncomfortable. After you face the vulnerability of drafting a manuscript, you listen to often-bracing critical feedback on that manuscript, after which you enter the dizzying, stymieing revision process, but then—thank all the stars in the sky—you're done! Just kidding. You're not nearly finished. Now you're on to the slog of trying to publish the darned thing. It is no wonder writers use the language of hurt to describe the process. I've had students tell me they want workshop to be “painful” and “brutal,” which I take to mean that they want us to be honest about their work. However, it is both interesting and unsurprising to me that they assume this candor must wound. It is no wonder writers use the language of hurt to describe the process. And this brings me back to my eighteen-year-old […]
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