Saturday, September 25, 2010

The writing process: "All I write is crap!"

One of the primary hurdles for my students is that they're afraid to write crap. They sit there, pen in hand (I insist on pen-to-paper for that first raw rough draft), before the blank page and mentally wrestle with what will go on paper. Some have said that they worry what they say will be dumb, or crappy, or totally not what they had in their minds. This worry prevents them from doing any kind of writing --crappy or otherwise.

I've encouraged them to just write the crap --get it out of their systems and onto the page, not worrying about whether or not it'll win the Pulitzer, or if it even fulfills the assignment. Writing anything down is always the first step. The real work is in revision. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

To show that even people who have been writing for a while write crap, I shared this result of the in-class writing exercise we did yesterday:

"First" [dumb title]

Walking along the edge of the Hudson River,
we tried to count the lit windows of office buildings
--the stars of Manhattan--
tried to locate our building
where we first met
on the corner of 56th and Madison
in the cool April air
where we masqueraded as ad execs
but shed those selves at night
that night when you sliced a mango
and kissed me pink

[ugh! how awful!]

The exercise was to write about a personal first experience and to include the name of a river you know, a color, a city, a street, a fruit, a month and a job.

I hope, at the very least, this gave my students permission to write anything, no matter how crappy, or, even, unexpectedly stellar.

So what about you? Any thoughts on writing crap? Any examples you'd like to share that illustrates a crappy first draft polished into something fantastic?

1 comment:

  1. On the Delaware River & Canal paralleling Route 1, sandwiched between farmland and the suburb town of Princeton, it seems surreal in the weekday heat and humidity of August, to be canoeing with my kids while thinking about the fruitcakes waiting for me to come back to work the next day.