2015 November Gratitude Shorts
2016 Letters to Patients
2017 Field Notes from a Life in Medicine
Day 1: Shitty First Drafts
I first heard this concept listening to Brené Brown’s book Rising Strong. It refers to Anne Lamott’s writing process, described in her book Bird By Bird. Brown uses it as a way to work through strong emotions. When something hard happens, intense emotions can get the best of us. Anger, resentment, defensiveness, judgment, shame, and a multitude of other difficult feelings can overcome our senses. How can we keep from getting sucked into a raging emotional vortex, dragging others along with us?
Write a Shitty First Draft, or SFD for short. I have done this a few times recently. I take a pen and paper and let loose. I vent, rant, SWEAR IN ALL CAPS, draw angry faces, scrawl everything I feel, with total abandon. This is the first, most subjective and raw version of the story I just experienced. Man, it feels good, documenting everything from this (self-)righteous point of view! But it doesn’t stop there. Sometime later—whenever I’m ready, I return to the SFD to edit and revise. Curiosity is key here. What other versions are also plausible? What am I missing from the other side(s)? What other story will allow me to suffer less? What makes me so attached to the SFD? What core value has been violated here? What is the most generous assumption I can make about the other people involved? I also learned that last one from my girl B2.
Turns out some SFDs are easier to edit than others. Seems it depends on the circumstances, relationships, and (inter)personal stakes involved. In the end, though, it’s well worth the effort. I realized it this week and posted a musing on Facebook, and my friend offered me a chance to expound:
“CC: Curiosity, Transparency, Integrity, and Openness are saving me right now.
“Friend: I’m glad they are but curious to know how they are?
“CC: They are keeping me focused on the best and most meaningful contribution I can make to the team. As more moving parts get added to the process, I can stand on these practices to respond effectively. In the end, regardless of the project outcome, hopefully I can look back and know that I have very little to regret. …And if I do regret anything, hopefully I will have at least also learned some valuable lessons.”
The more I practice my SFDs, the sooner I can get to healthier iterations of my life stories—ones that allow for forgiveness, equanimity, gentleness (on myself and others), and inner peace. I used to secretly berate myself for not getting to the peace part faster, easier, more efficiently. But now I know, the healthiest way out of the shitty feelings is straight through. The Shitty First Draft is the perfect vehicle for getting to the other side, and I get to drive every time.