A Point of Release
My memoir is newly out in paperback if you are interested in more stories about becoming a writer. Or order any of my novels via your local independent bookstore.
I’ve been thinking a lot about being in the middle of my life lately. I turn 52 later this year, so I’m in it, baby, I’m in the center. I think technically I might be late career when it comes to my writing, although I truly think I’ve only written half the books I’ll write yet in my life. (I picked twenty as a goal arbitrarily but sure why not? That’s a fine number to shoot for.)
But also I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I want to accomplish outside of just writing novels. There’s something about that 50-year-old threshold — or at least there was for me — that makes you want to make sure that you’re doing all that you can with your life. I still have so much time left in my life, but I just want to make sure I’m using it all fully. Maximally.
Man, this all sounds so measured and reasonable when I type it out, but I assure you at least part of it has to do with dealing with my anxious moments. Productivity as a means for anxiety management. Well, at least I don’t get super high all the time anymore to deal with it. (I wish!)
So a good way for me to focus my energy is to write, always. If I’ve written for the day, then I’m fine, then I can get through it all, “it” being life on Planet Earth, or maybe more specifically America, and also even more specifically in this skin.
But then there’s also planning things. Planning trips. I’m going on a big trip in May. Maybe one in July, soon. To see friends. To stretch myself out in the world. And there’s a new back porch in the works. And every day I’m tending to the garden. Thinking about what will happen next with it.
The Sidney Attenberg Memorial Azalea bloomed almost immediately
And then there’s figuring out the annual #1000wordsofsummer project, which takes months of planning and enacting. A big puzzle, this project. Thinking about which writers I want to do it and then reaching out and asking (begging) them to do it. Figuring out which local charities I want to raise money for through the project and putting that into place. Assessing what I need to have finished with my other projects/life so I can have my schedule clear for the month. Sending out lots of emails, making some spreadsheets. Reading the tweets of strangers to see what they need this year. What they need to hear. What we all need to hear.
But also I have learned: so many people do it (we are closing in on 28,000 subscribers now) that it has become impossible to manage certain aspects of it. Learning that I have to have faith that people are adults and can manage themselves and support each other has been a highly educational (and rewarding) process for me. It’s required me to put trust into people I’ve never met and often don’t even know their names. If the whole process of writing 1000 words a day is about letting go of your fears and just giving into your creative desires, I assure you managing this project has had the same impact on me.
What am I doing in my middle age? Learning how to trust.
The nights have been so beautiful here lately, they’ve felt just like love
In 3 months, on June 17, #1000wordsofsummer will start. Wild that it’s the sixth year of doing this thing, and that in January 2024 there will be a book version of it. (Official title: 1000 Words: A Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All-Year Round.) But for now there’s just the daydreaming about it, about the idea of all of us devoting ourselves wholeheartedly to writing 1000 words a day for 2 weeks straight.
Some people use it to start a new project, and some people use it to gain some momentum mid-stream, and some people are just trying to finish the damn thing, whatever that thing might be for them. My mother uses it to keep a diary. I know people who have used it to write letters. Work on their master’s thesis. Write a poem a day. Tackle that book proposal. Revise, revise, revise. Complete an entire screenplay. 1000 words a day. A good day’s work.
I admit I am also intrigued by the idea that someone could use it not for writing but for some other artistic endeavor. What I know about most is writing, but I love the idea that you could use it as an inspiration to put in a good day’s work in any medium.
Whatever you want to use it for, it’s here for you. And it’s here for me, too. A place to put all my hopes and ideas and yes, anxieties, too. I think a helpful way to approach it for any of us is that it can be a point of release. Here’s everything we’re thinking and feeling and wanting to say and we get to do it for two weeks straight. So start thinking about what you need to release in your life. Because together, starting on June 17, we’re going to do it.
Comments are open today for you to talk about what you’re thinking about working on.
Have a nice weekend.
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to High Voltage Youth Camp.
Just so grateful for your writing and work, and your willingness to share with us. Last year's #1000wordsofsummer was one of the first times I focused on carving out daily time to write just for me -- not to be of service or for something greater, but for my own devotion to writing as a person again. It was a gift. This year, I hope to use it to shape and work on a new book project; regardless, knowing others are sitting down and getting to the page is a gift. I cannot wait for the book; thank you thank you.
Thank you Jami! The possibilities you create in that #1000 word container are fantastic. I found out about it last year from one of my virtual office water cooler pals, and I tend to think of this as a bigger water fountain, where I go to help slake the thirst for imagined company that soloworking carries.
This year I'll be somewhere in the midst of writing my book about bread. So glad the community you've nurtured will be in a book in January!