of writing as a polaroid

Posted by Daniela Elza on Oct 17 2010

In her book Bird by Bird Anne Lamott says:

“Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t—and, in fact, you are not supposed to—know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.”

This shortly after a chapter on perfectionism, which begins:

“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 your shitty first draft.”

She goes on in the next paragraph to say:

“Besides, perfectionism will ruin your inventiveness, and playfulness and life force (these are words we are allowed to use in California).”

And if you are in a rut with writing, or with life, here is a quote that might help put things in perspective:

“E. L. Doctorow once said that ‘writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.’ You don’t have to see where you are going, you don’t have to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard.”

from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott (1994)

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