Those Pages You Will Throw Out

“…And you don’t care about those first three pages; those you will throw out, those you needed to write to get to that fourth page, to get to that one long paragraph that was what you had in mind when you started, only you didn’t know that, couldn’t know that, until you got to it.”—Anne Lamott

In Anne Lamott’s wonderful, wonderful book Bird by Bird, there is a chapter entitled Shitty First Drafts. In it, she talks about how “almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.” Anyone who has ever attempted to write anything knows this. In the process of writing, you will often find it necessary to throw out many, many pages you’ve written for the simple reason that they are crap. But as Lamott pointed out, you needed to write those pages to get to the one page you are writing now, the one that finally makes sense and sounds right.

If you ask me what it takes to write well, this is what I will say: Truth and pain. Effort and persistence. Courage. Hope. If you ask me what it takes to live well, I will say the same.

If you ask me what it takes to write well, this is what I will say: Truth and pain. Effort and persistence. Courage. Hope. If you ask me what it takes to live well, I will say the same.

In life, too, often you will find that your first attempts are bound to be crappy, or that many, many years of your life were spent going down the wrong road. But the thing is, you needed to make all those crappy attempts and take all those wrong turns to get to where you are right now, to this moment that finally makes sense and shows you how the pieces of the puzzle figure in together. Looking back, therefore, those wrong roads and wrong turns you took weren’t actually wrong. What was wrong was to think that they were the destinations when they were simply the trails you needed to take, to get to where you are meant to be.

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” ― Steve Jobs

My mother once asked me, just fairly recently, what I must’ve become had my father still been in my life. I told her I would most probably be a different person right now. Number one, I would not have gone into Nursing. I would’ve taken up a liberal arts/science course, and then Law, like he did. I imagine I would also have been more outspoken and more confident, and maybe gotten to know how to play chess, because oh, how he believed I would be brilliant at it (just like how he was). And I probably would have been a generally more trusting person too, although possibly less compassionate, because more than anything, it was Nursing that taught me compassion.

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” ― Mary Oliver

But who’s to say I would’ve been a better or worse person had all that happened, had I become that person instead of this? What is sure is that I would’ve been different—not necessarily better, not necessarily worse—just different. And I do not regret anything, really, because I like the person that I currently am, and I like who I am becoming. I like that I am working to become a psychologist (this is a bit tangential but I thought I’d share it anyway—I’ve just officially earned my Master’s in Psychology, yay!). I like that I am a teacher, and that I teach a subject that I love. And I am thrilled that I get to write about all these things. My heart is here—in psychology, in teaching, and most especially in writing—and it took so many days of confusion and nights of frustrated crying and years of asking God what it is He put me here on Earth for, before I could finally and boldly say those words: My heart is here, and this is what I am here for.

The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.” ― Cheryl Strayed

If you know what I went through to get here, you also know that the path I tread was anything but straight, sunny and well-defined. I did not always know where I was going, because I started out running away from things I didn’t want instead of running towards things I wanted. It was a journey I took not knowing where I was supposed to go, much less how to get there. I had no way of knowing whether I was making the right decision or not.

But see, the courage to take this kind of journey, this kind of risk, is not drawn from the knowledge that you are absolutely right about this. Rather, it is drawn from knowing that even if you are wrong about this, you can take and live with the consequences. That even if you fail, you will survive the fall. That even if you find yourself lost, you can get yourself back on track. That whatever pain you feel, it is necessary that you feel it because it’s meant to teach you something valuable. And most especially, that courage is drawn from the understanding that even if the whole thing turns out to be a mistake, it is not the end of you. It was simply one of those crappy pages you wrote, which you will throw out, but still needed to write anyway.

“There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go—but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”—Anne Lamott

So whatever pages you are writing right now, do not worry so much that they are currently not making much sense, or that they might all turn out to be crap, after all. It doesn’t matter that you will eventually throw those pages out.

But it does matter that you write them.

Trust me, you need to write them, those pages you will throw out.

They make all the difference. ♠

Your journey has molded you for your greater good, and it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t think you’ve lost time. There is no short-cutting to life. It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now. And now is right on time.”―Asha Tyson

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