Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bird by Bird

Today, I finished Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It's one of those great books that is so hard to classify. Ostensibly, it's a guide on writing, but since art imitates life (or is it the other way round?) a lot of what she says are actually observations on life. And one of the things she said, (and was stuck in my head), was that the first draft is always, in her words "shitty". And that it's fine.

The weird thing, is that this applies to a lot more than writing. One example I could think of was piano. Lots of times (all the time), the first time I try to play the piano, what comes out has no resemblence to the song. But after lots of practicing and refining, what I get is closer to what the songwriter intended; in other words, the 'better' second draft. And in the case of my exam pieces, I hope the "second draft" is good enough to get me to pass (I habour no illusions about my music/creative abilities).

Another time(s) I could see this first/second draft example would be, most obviously, in writing. In secondary school (sec 3, sec 4), Ms Tan always made us write first and second draft for our essays. And the difference is remarkable, sometimes, the difference in marks is as much as five to seven (out of thirty). And today, was Chinese exam, and one of the papers was an essay. Normally, I just write out of my head, and then score really low. But since it's the IB exam, I was naturally very very nervous. So after I wrote my essay (actually, it was near the end of the essay), I started editing (adding sentences and such). And I decided to re-write the essay after I realised I needed to swap the order of two paragraphs. During the second re-write, I managed (I hope) to make the sentences sound a lot smoother. It's not perfect, but I'm happier with the second attempt. And of course, I spent the rest of the time worrying that I'd accidentally hand in the first version. (:

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