TBT: On Writing: Essential Caca

It’s time for another TBT blog. Tosca orginally posted this blog in August 2015. Let it serve as inspiration for those of you starting NaNoWriMo.

My sister’s bulldog has a penchant for eating stuff he shouldn’t: bits of Frisbee, sponge animals from my niece’s bathtub, the eyeballs of stuffed bears. They all emerge like little treasures in the yard after a warm rain.

You get me.

Far be it from me to compare my beloved art form to a pile of dog business, but you know there’s a reason Anne Lamott calls them Shitty First Drafts.

When I write I put down a lot of words–upwards of several thousand a day. I do time in my chair (the first part of which may consist of internal debate on the merits of Botox or mindless eyebrow pulling). But somewhere around the twenty minute mark I get down to it. I write fast and ugly.

I do not look back.

Anyone who knows me knows this goes against all natural law. That I am, in fact, an obsessive nit who will pick at just about anything—sweater pills, labels, cuticles. Especially cuticles. That I can rearrange a sentence like a kitchen shelf for the better part of an hour. But I also know that without writing a bunch of essential caca, I cannot get to the good bits.

What are the good bits? I don’t know. Really—I never know. I never knew flies would swarm the fallen fruit of the tree in Eden. I never knew a jogger would get hit by a car in Demon. I did not know, I did not know. I did not know how a man’s head would shake on his neck in mortal fear… how Eve’s name would sound on the lips of Adam. Without letting it run out from the fingers, I still would be none the wiser.

And so I’ve just learned to trust that those bits are in there.

But let me say: writing crap is tough. We don’t want it to stink long on the page. We have high aspirations for these words; they should reflect on our insouciant brilliance, maybe be worth some kind of money. In the very least, they should not embarrass us, like sweet-faced children who parrot the best expletives of their parents.
And yet, there they are: parroting, stinking, and not worth… well, you know.

I prepare to go mucking on the second pass. I expect to shovel out a load. I expect to wade through manure.

And, against logic, I expect to find treasure.

  • Teddi Deppner
    Posted at 18:45h, 08 November Reply

    Thank you, Tosca! Yes, this is quite timely for us NaNo goers. As I dive in, it helps to hear from someone whose prose is beautiful that it doesn’t have to *start* that way. Time enough for shoveling and sorting later. Thank you.

    Posted at 04:02h, 04 November Reply

    THANK YOU!!! I really really needed this very encouragement tonight!!!

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