SH*TTY FIRST DRAFTS

A Guest Post by Jennifer Jepsen

c.jpg
“C” – daughter of The Broody Hen.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”

― Anne LamottBird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

This writing gig has me challenged, heavy-laden, filled with questions. I want to say stuff, things boiling in my head, words, phrases, ideas…but nothing can come out. There’s a block of words, a paste formed, a plaque allowing nothing to pass. I can clean bathrooms, vacuum floors, rage on a run but still that block sits and sits and pesters and pesters. Until I sit, until I write, the paste remains, preventing flow, preventing new truth, new grace.

I have loved this year of blogging. I have hated this year of blogging. Stretching, pulling, sifting. Words deposited on a page, forming something akin to a cohesive thought. I am consistently amazed and terrified at the construction of sentences, phrases, paragraphs, essays. The process isfor the faint-hearted…those of us who in our vulnerability yearn to make sense of the impressions, the imprinted notions that knock and prey upon the doors of consciousness, who beg, yell, scream, bang their fists upon my unwilling fingertips, threatening that if I don’t type, things might just come out sideways.

And so this, my dear reader and friend, is my process. My shitty first draft (Anne Lamott, thank you), my stepping away, believing I am the laughing stock of all writers who have ever breathed and walked. Coming back, time and again, some days more than others, redrafting a sentence, moving a paragraph, omitting the snark, the attitude healing, the wounds grafting, the softening process inevitably reshaping me, my heart, my way in the world.

Writing, creating…our vulnerability formed into a product, to be consumed, to be judged, to be measured. Our creations published available to the world, for the world, to read our hearts, our minds, our insides even unbeknownst to us. This process of unfolding, taking the partly formed bits and pieces, creating a product, a useful package, wrapping it up, tying a bow around, pressing Publish. 

The finality, the stomach butterflies, the hands clammy, deep breaths. It’s okay, it’s out there. Pull it back, delete. No! I said too much. Deep breaths. Breathe. In, out, breathe.

For this recovering perfectionist, writing is necessary for me. There is no way to write perfect. Depending upon whom is reading, there is only good, good enough. There is only letting go, letting it be, living with the messiness, trusting the process.

I now recognize the metaphor for life. There is no perfect in marriage, relationships, parenting. There is no perfect in bodies, food, exercise. There is no perfect in decorating, home cleanliness, organization. There is no perfect in saying the right things, doing, being. There is only good enough. There is only trust and rest and do-overs and eleventh chances. There is only beginning the day anew, receiving grace, giving grace. There is only hope in mercy and better endings. There is only forgiveness and scar tissue and walking with a holy limp.

And the calming presence enters in. Dear child. You said it, thank you! I needed you to write that. Doesn’t it feel better? I love your heart, your voice. I love that you are using the gifts I’ve given you. Thank you.

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