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6:52 am - Tues 9/30/03
A Shitty First Draft

A Shitty First Draft

I am a writer.

I don't get paid to write, but I have the desire, and that desire is often followed by actual writing.

So that makes me a writer.

Now the question is whether I'm going to try and do anything with my writing.

Some time back, I was sharing my thoughts of becoming a capital w "Writer" with a friend. I suggested the idea was foolish, as if I now wanted to supplement my non-income as an actor by panning for gold.

And my friend said a great thing: "Maybe so, but if you don't put your pan in the water, you're not going to get any gold."


Recently, I read Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. It's a book on writing that, while not sugarcoating things for a second, manages to be tremendously inspiring, and funny as hell in places.

There's loads of quotable lines and great advice in the book--I sped through it the way I tear through a great novel, feeling like I'd made a new friend in the process--but the line that jumped out at me was "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor".

For a guy who's started to feel like his biggest problem in life is fear of frustration--Since I can't get it right the first time, I give up, or worse yet, never try in the first place--that's a line I need to have playing on a continual loop in my brain, 24/7.

Related to that sentiment is her suggestion to "write shitty first drafts". She doesn't say you have to, just that you inevitably will, and not to worry about it.

In the first place, you're the only one who's going to read those first drafts; in the second, the mess of a first draft will contain some great writing it might have taken you five or six pages to get to, or lead you at some point to the story you actually should be writing (And if your biggest concern is not making a mess, if you don't allow yourself to play, if you keep a tight lid on your subconscious, you'll never get there).

Now I'm on something of an Anne Lamott kick. I'm currently reading Operating Instructions (A journal of her son Sam's first year of life), and Traveling Mercies--subtitled "some thoughts on faith"--is warming up in the bullpen.

I actually started with her non-fiction work for a reason. Two reasons, actually--It's not as big a leap for me to imagine writing non-fiction, since I kind of already do that. And I was a little bit afraid that while I loved her book on writing, I'd read one of her novels and be disappointed somehow, and that would effectively squash the inspiration I've been feeling.

After "Mercies", I'm going to read John Shelby Spong's A New Christianity For A New World (Jane gave it to me while I was visiting her and Mark), then likely continue on with my Anne Lamott-athon.

Years ago, I read Spong's Rescuing The Bible From Fundamentalism.

Having been exposed to that wacky subgenre of Christianity as an impressionable child, it was genuinely refreshing to hear another side of the story (For one thing, I didn't realize, till I was an adult, that fundamentalism really is the minority view amongst Christians. I had thought, because I'd rejected a belief I basically couldn't live with, that I'd rejected Christianity altogether).

I enjoyed the book, but was left not really understanding the Christianity that Spong believed in.

"Okay", I thought to myself, "Now I know what you don't believe. But what do you believe?". I was intrigued, but it didn't really satisfy my hunger.

He doesn't seem to believe any of the tenets I always assumed were at the heart of Christianity--No virgin birth, no resurrection, no hell, etc and so forth--and to hear Jane describe this latest book, it almost sounds as if he could believe in any "higher power" (Or as Homer Simpson once said, in a moment of crisis, "Jesus, Allah, Buddha--I love you all!"), that he just happens to call his particular higher power "Jesus" because that's the society he was raised in.

But I'll give this new book a shot, and maybe go back and pick up some of the ones I missed, because he's a smart guy (I loved watching him take on a right wing nut some years back on Politically Incorrect), who has all his ducks in a row in terms of scholarship, and after all, it's not as if I've figured that much out on my own (After years of proselytizing, I'm starting to think my "Cult of Jim" is doomed to failure as a major religious movement).

(Truth to tell, I think I'd make a pretty kickass Taoist. But that's a whole other journal entry, and I'm running a little short on time right now.)


Feeling in a pretty good mood right now, in large part because I have a commercial audition this afternoon (For McDonalds), and an audition for a student film on Sunday.

Talking to Kevin recently, while in the middle of sending out some headshots, I told him I was feeling depressed, and that one of my problems, in terms of motivation, was that often times doing the right thing doesn't feel particularly good to me.

It's a real problem.

And when I was talking to him, I was feeling pretty low, like sending out the headshots was a pricey exercise in futility. But when I finished, and had taken them down to the postoffice to mail out, I did feel a sense of relief; I still didn't feel like anything was going to come of these 14 headshots, but I felt like I had taken my shot.

And here's some good news; On a whim, I had someone at the postoffice weigh one of my mailings, and it turns out I've been putting too much postage on them (I knew one stamp wouldn't do, so I've just been slapping a second stamp on and calling it good). So from here on, I'm going to be buying 60 cent stamps for my mailings, and saving 14 cents per headshot (I wish I'd figured this out a whole lot sooner, but at least I've figured it out now).

What I have to do is realize that my job right now is just to get the stuff out there. I can't control what happens to it or what effect it will or won't have. The only thing I have to do, the only thing I can do, is get it out there.


Feeling pretty bummed about Schwarzeneggers current standing in the polls; If the recall election were held today, the recall would win, and Schwarzenegger would be elected.

It's the kind of thing that makes me uncomfortable, beyond the politics of it; I never am happy when I feel myself thinking "Damn, the public sure is fucking stupid...!", because that's the same public I want to watch me on tv, or come see the movies I'm in.

In other words, it confuses me.

But it's hard not to be annoyed with a populace that allows a candidate to get away with snappy one-liners and no real plans, who ducks all debates except the one where he gets to see the questions in advance, and who only seems to be making a run for the governorship because his movie career is on the skids, and is prepared to hand him the keys to the governor's mansion because they're apparently dazzled by his star power.

It's depressing.

And speaking of "depressing"...

Reading this story, I felt both amazed at the resiliency of the human animal, and disgusted that a two-year-old child should have to demonstrate such resiliency.

Well, I hate to end on that note, and I have a lot more I could write about, but I'm feeling a strong need for some sack time. I'm going to take a nap, get up and do some laundry, then go book myself a McDonalds commercial (It's for those new McGriddle things, which have gotten good reviews from two friends whose palettes I trust implicitly).

Nitey-nite all...


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