Collaborative Essay Project

Below is where you will all contribute to a collaborative rhetorical analysis of Anne Lamott's "Shitty First Drafts." Use ideas you brainstormed in class. Remember, you all have equal access to add sentences or words, delete text, modify text, rearrange text, etc. If you click on "history," you can view and have the option to revert to previous versions of the essay.

Here, I will start y'all off with a couple introductory sentences. Now—it's your job to finish this essay. Also, don't feel pressured to write this in a neat and orderly way. This project is mean to help you learn just what a "rhetorical analysis" is. So, have fun with this, and use it for your own benefit.

Go about this in whatever way "feels" right to you: for example, if folks have written the first two paragraphs, but you really want to start writing the conclusion, then please feel free to do so. This project is like all draft writing: it's going to be messy!


In the hilarious essay "Shitty First Drafts," Anne Lamott defeats the myth of the beautiful first draft by explaining the sheer ugliness of the first draft. From the start, it is clear she is mindful of a prominently youthful, student-based audience. Lamott mixes her humor throughout the paper in little bits and pieces, which seemed to help convince the reader that everyone writes shitty first drafts. She writes it in a very informal tone, which really connects to the reader in this situation in a much better way than a formal tone would. Going along with this, she also 'lowers' herself and sees through the audiences perspective. Her personal story about writing restaurant reviews for a magazine shows the audience that even the most experienced and best writers start with nothing more that a pile of unorganized thoughts that, in this case, are referred to as shit. Lamott uses this personal anecdote to also let the readers into her head and show her thought process. Not only now has she lowered herself to the writers perspective by telling them how she blanks too, but the readers can also see her perspective and how she gets around this block. Throughout this essay, readers begin to think that professional writers aren't as intimidating as they seem. Most would think that professional writers are perfect from the first draft. This piece proves that everyone has a bad first draft, and stresses not to give up on writing after one horribly bad draft.

Lamott uses a rhetorical sort of pathos in order to appeal to the reader. She does this by bringing readers' opinions directly into the essay. She writes, "First there's the vinegar-lipped Reader lady…And then the emaciated German male…and there are your parents…and there's William Burroughs" who all criticize her work (Lamott 72). By using these satirized characters, it connects the reader as they feel that Lamott is thinking of them while writing. Lamott also uses pathos to capture the reader's feelings and emotions. She allows the reader to feel as if they are not alone, and that she can relate.Also she uses cursing, to make it more informal and allows the reader relate more. She finds it difficult to write a first draft, and knows many others feel the same way, too.

Pronoun usage is important in analyzing the rhetorical persuasiveness of "Shitty First Drafts." A notable moment is when Lamott writes, "They do not type a few stiff warm-up sentences and then find themselves bounding along like huskies across the snow" (70). Automatically, Lamott uses "they" instead of I to get the direct connection with her audience. If she would have written "they," perhaps Lamott wouldn't have come across as warm and affable as she does. The word "they" gives us, her readers, the sense that she is with us (not just writing about her own isolated case)—with all normal writers who do not sit down and write like Shakespeare on a first try. She is truly just trying to explain how it is not bad, in fact it's good, to make a "shitty first draft." Too often people get caught up by thinking that just because your writing it down it's permanent. She stresses that you can change anything about your paper and even if you get one good sentence out of a six page draft it was a success. Lamott tells the reader that the first draft can be compare to a child scribbling on paper;there isn't necessarily good quality to it. She is very informal in her writing which also helps the audience to relate. She starts a paragraph with the word "but" and uses curse words. (72) This casual approach keeps the reader interested and reveals the author's voice.

As students reading this essay, many of us would probably consider hearing this news, this revelation, to be a relief. There aren't many people who can say they don't wonder and worry about how well their writing has turned out. However, with Lamott revealing that most writers will start out with little of worth in their works, and that many of them have the same worries we suffer, we are all allowed to breath a sigh of relief; we aren't the only ones who freak out about writing. And of course, Lamott gives us this news in a way that is both humorous and believable. The way she shares all of this with us only reveals Lamott's ability to connect to her readers very easily. Thanks to her, some of us may be able to breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to composing.

Lamott projects herself as an honest writer. She is not afraid to say it how it is or even talk about her own battles with "quieting the inner voices." This quality draws readers to the piece. Her audience can then comprehend that she isn't just inventing topics, but she is being authentic and trying to relate. Not only is her honesty in the paper something that almost everyone can identify with, it also shows how genuine she is toward her readers. Lamott states exactly what is on her mind, and in many cases it is ridiculous, but she writes without any concern of judgment. She even uses this strange style when describing a tactic to the reader. Lamott suggests that one should "isolate one of the voices and imagine the person speaking as a mouse" (73). The creativity that her ideas and writing contain make it that much more entertaining. Her writing style is also unconventional which gives it an edgy appeal. The uniqueness allows every reader to obtain their own persepective from the piece, rather than be confined to one linear idea provided by an author. This aspect as a whole, makes both a work and an author all around more enjoyable and interesting.

The best part about Lamott was that she calls it as she sees it, which I love to see in a writer. She is totally honest with the reader. She makes it so informal that no topic is taboo, even poking fun at other authors! Lamott knows what people want to read, and "Shitty First Drafts" is it. It is even better that she tells the readers that every single writer has a problem with first drafts and it just not the "inexperienced" writers, IT'S EVERYONE! I'm really glad I got to read this because it is a nice piece of writing. Lamott allows for all her readers to feel as though they can contribute something to a masterpiece, whether it be written poetically and lavish or if it is as simple as forming non-coherent sentences to start with. She writes this piece so that everyone can know they are not alone in his or her inability to write perfectly from the start. While this may seem like a setback to some, it could really be the start to something amazing.

Discussion (pose confusions/questions to classmates or instructor):

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