Day 10 of #1000wordsofsummer 2019
|Jami Attenberg||Nov 25, 2019|
Today you will write 1000 words. You have five days left to do this, and you’re going to get up each morning and dig deep. You will write your 1000 words. You will work hard. You will give a shit. That’s what this is about: giving a shit. About your life and your mind and the world. When you sit down and do your work you are showing that you care about being alive. Ah it’s nothing, you could argue. Just chicken scratch on a page, a few clicks on a keyboard. But it’s not nothing. It’s much more than a gesture. In one way or another, It’s your life splayed out before you on a page.
A moment ago I walked over to my bookshelf, looking for a little inspiration. A man named Tom built this bookshelf for me three years ago when I moved into this house, and sometimes he would send me texts at 2 AM with pictures of the wood he was using. My entire life I have wanted a bookshelf like this. It's tall, reaches all the way to the ceiling, with two large cabinets at its base. Above that, there are six rows, and I need a ladder to get to the top one. The wood is cypress, and it's a soothing honey color; Tom was right to be excited about it.
When the bookshelf arrived, I promised myself I would fill a row a year with new books I had read. I have two and a half rows left to fill. The row which is at eye level contains books I know I can pick up and open to any page and find beautiful writing. Sometimes I switch books in and out of that shelf, depending on what I’m working on, or if I’ve read something new that excites me and feels like it deserves to be on that row for a while. Some books will probably stay on that shelf forever. They are all my friends.
I just now picked up Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson and read that first little bit about the narrator’s grandfather living in a house where the earth was at eye level, and how he painted mountains he had never seen in person until he finally got on a train to find some, and it was so evocative and thrilling and visceral. And I felt - as I usually do when I read one of the books from this shelf - that perhaps I would never write anything that good and fresh-feeling (even though it was written many years ago!), but also that perhaps it was important for me to continue working anyway. Because no one I know writes books just so they can sit alone on a shelf, and I bet every author on there would want me to keep trying.
Even though writing is a solo act, in a sense it’s about companionship, too. We create a space for one idea to live next to another, so that our ideas will have a big home together. But writing is also about reaching out beyond yourself and offering up your best thoughts and connecting them with the world. Everyone gathers together on the shelf in one way or another. I have enjoyed these past few days gathering on the shelf with all of you.
You’re in the home stretch. Don’t stop for nothing.