Radical Simplicity and a Beautiful, Messy Life

I'm a Shitty First Draft (and you may be too.)

I have a friend who is a perfectionist. She would tell you that it's a problem, an illness, and I believe her. But on the outside it looks a lot like a gift. Her house is spotless, her kids well groomed, her hair smoothed perfectly and stylish. She has posture, class, good grammar. I've never once seen her spill coffee on her self or accidentally say the F-word.

 That's not me. I'm a mess. I sometimes obsess over making things perfect, but never the right things. I'll spend an hour shining the sink while the counters are covered in spilled coffee grounds and last nights dishes. I constantly doubt myself, my purpose, my choices. I suck at gardening and budgeting and having un-awkward conversations. I'm the girl with paint on her t-shirt and butt sweat on her jeans. A Bible college drop-out covered in figurative and literal scars from a life lived stumbling around on the precipice between passion and recklessness.

 Often when I sit down to write something new I title it S.F.D.  Shitty First Draft. To remind myself that it doesn't need to be polished and perfect. I wonder if sometimes our whole lives feel like the shitty first draft and we need the reminder that we just aren't there yet. That nobody expects us to have it all figured out yet.  We don't need to float through life all perfect and polished.

 Like the time I sat in the basement of a homeless shelter I'd previously worked at. Homeless, scared, coming down from one hell of a night on Ecstasy, just there to collect the guitar I'd stored there, heading out to the next city, the next round in my downward spiral. A friend, a former co-worker, sat across from me in that basement and told me that we all write our own stories, some are dramas, some are comedies, some are tragedies, but that mine isn't over yet. He told me not to become a tragedy, because "Kelly, if you become a tragedy I think I might become one too." I'm not sure I'd ever realized before that I am part of other peoples stories. That I'm a character in their own shitty first draft.

 Sometimes I like to pretend that Anne Lamott is sitting across from me on a stool at my kitchen island. I've brewed strong coffee and admired her hair and shared all my insecurities and fears and she leans across the butcher block counter top stained with red wine and grease and says "Kelly, stop comparing your insides to their outsides." Oh wise Anne.

 And she's right, of course. We see our own mess and pain and brokenness and fear and compare it to someone else's Sunday-best version of themselves.

 A mentor once responded to an exuberant epiphany I'd pulled out of one of the psalms with the words "That's nice. But what did you learn about your own brokenness." It took me 10 years to even fathom what he meant. I thought I wasn't there to talk about brokenness. I was wrong. It's why we're all here. It's why we have each other.

 Some days I don't want to go outside as I am. I want to stay under the duvet until I am a little thinner and wiser and braver and stronger. I am afraid that the world will see the awkwardness and the disjointedness and the raw unedited me.

 But it's community that edits us, isn't it? Iron that sharpens iron? The people and the events and the ordinary outside of ourselves that helps to shape our stories, build our character, teach us to love and learn and forgive and breathe deep the little treasures of friendship and community. Without others the draft would never change, without exposing our roughest edges we never get refined.

 So here I am, a shitty first draft. A bunch of disjointed stories and ideas that have meaning somehow, maybe. I am a wife, a mom, a missionary, a recovering drug addict, a broken little girl, a bible college drop out, a beautiful mess, and a million other things. But whatever I am, I am not a tragedy.

 And neither are you, because you aren't done writing the story yet.  

P.s. I know, this is the first blog post here in ages. Who starts a new blog just to abandon it 6 posts later, right? But my mind and heart and days are filled with another project lately, check it out here.  


  1. It's like you read my heart and mind

  2. Isn't this all so true!? Love your new project as well, Grace Inn. God bless you and all the work you do for the less fortunate. Hope you get this place up and running soon!

  3. Hi Kelly,
    No you are not a tragedy, since God has chosen you to be His child. I am sure that His grace still amazes you as it does me. And our response should be as the song says, "I know there is no way to repay you only to offer you my praise."

  4. Great Post, I've missed them!

  5. It's always to treat to see your posts pop into my inbox. I love your delightful way with words especially this:
    "A Bible college drop-out covered in figurative and literal scars from a life lived stumbling around on the precipice between passion and recklessness."

  6. You had me at butt sweat...and not just because you're funny, but because being real is what this short little life is all about.

    Truly wonderful words that pierced my heart, thank you!

  7. Oh Kelly, you are such a breath of fresh air. I love how you say it as it is. Thank you for helping me to put things into perspective.

  8. Thank you...truer words never spoken

  9. Thank you...truer words never spoken

  10. I read this post when it came out (I was that anonymouse commenter that called you a breath of fresh air ;) )... now, how many months later.... I'm a newly single mom gathering the shards of a 20 year marriage to a man who couldn't be faithful and now has another family with a hot young thing I couldn't have competed with as an 18 yr old much less as a 42 yr old with 10 kids.... but I'm back in college to finish what I started and I'm taking a writing theory class. We just read Anne Lamott's "Shitty First Drafts"!!

    Yep. That sums it up... and so onwards and upwards I go.... and I'm attempting to create something that can be used as a hand up to people digging out of life's crap... those that want to not end in a tragedy but to tell their story that it might become a lifeline to the next person digging out of the crap hole.

    Would love to chat with you about how you have used your writing as "therapy" and how you have used your voice to encourage others... :) I think you can see my email address? If not, I've activated the "notify me" button on this comment if you are interested in chatting.

    best to you... you stay in my mind and prayers!