I was thinking about drawing butts the other night while my head was swimming and I couldn’t sleep. My subconscious was playing around with the prospects of being a fuckup, and I’m going to try and re-create that stream of consciousness here.
Anthony Clark, the fellow who writes Beartato once recommended that the first thing drawn on a pretty new notebook should be a butt. Drawing a butt breaks up the sanctity of the blank page, and frees you to draw whatever else you like with impunity. It couldn’t be worse than a butt.
This appeals to me, as a fuckup. I’m not so great with words; I forget the ones I need when I speak, and I spend a lot of conversation time staring blankly while my hands pantomime the actions I associate with the nouns I need. When I write, I am more connected to my vocabulary, but there are still moments in which I have no idea if there is indeed a word for that face you make when you realize you’ve been talking to someone you’ve mistaken for your high school English teacher for the past ten minutes.
Seriously, is there a word for that? There should be.
I do not write long-hand. (Those muscles have atrophied, and can never be rebuilt.) I can’t draw a butt on the heading of my first drafts. Well, I could, this is a touch screen, but I’m not going to do that. Also, touch screens suck. They don’t register my hands as living. But anyway, I try to remember Butts when I’m writing a first draft. There is nothing sacred about a blank word document. I do not need to preserve some beauty inherent in nothing, nor am I obliged to so carefully choose my words that everything written will sing with Whole Story Truth in a first draft.
J. D. Salinger wrote on a typewriter. He used only his pointer fingers, and jabbed out every single letter that way. Salinger was great. But I write with my fists. I should explain. I developed the ability to type shortly after I developed the ability to read, and while my handwriting looks like an insane mess, I type in whole words the way I read in whole words without picking apart the letters. Where am I going with this? Stream of consciousness, right, just keep going… I write with my fists. Full bore, lets go, don’t stop, if you slow the mocking screen saver will come on and taunt you…
First drafts are the time to draw butts. Expiriment with language because you cannot remember the proper way to say things. Invent a word when you need it. Keep running, and let the story fall into place while you go. It’s a race between brain and hands, who will create the world first? Whatever happens, if you reach the end YOU WIN.
The reward is editing. I flipping love editing. And the editor’s brain is different than then one you use for first drafts. Yeah, it might cry in shame at the first draft attempt to create the word “fartgrubbler,” but it might just as easily enjoy the strange and naturally beautiful structure you accidentally built into the story. (Read a lot of well structured authors: your first draft brain will graft some I-beams into your own writing.) And second drafts are the time to divide those errors and leave in the accidental beauty.
What I’m advising is to never fear the butts. Make ugly things, there will be greatness there, too. But slowing down to worry over the possible mistakes that might make it in will keep you from achieving any spontaneous beauty. And the surprises are the best part of writing.
Now, this looks nothing at all like the flitting thoughts racing across my alcohol-addled head at two in the morning, but I kind of like it. It’s tres first draft. And I’m going to be a bit of a fartgrubbler and press “publish.”