Today you will write 1000 words. Because what you are writing is your problem now, and you are absolutely going to solve it.
I always think of my books as two-year long problems I have to solve. Once I choose to write it, I’ve got to ride it out to the end until I’ve come up with the answer. But truly, within that big problem lives thousands of other problems.
What is the story, who are these characters, why are they all here together? What is the best way to tell their story? How do I feel about these people? Why do I give a shit? Why should anyone else give a shit? Why did I put that character in that car when it’s nearly out of gas? Couldn’t I have given them a full tank? Where’s the gas station? I guess it has to be in the middle of nowhere, right? Why don’t they have any money for gas? Where are they going to find some money? Oh look, their ex-lover just showed up at the gas station in the middle of nowhere. Now that can’t be good. Except it’s funny, instead. They’re funny together. Why do I keep making this scene funny when it needs to be sad or at least a little desperate? How do I tone down the funny and turn up the sad? Wait — is it funny?
And by the way how am I going to get up tomorrow and write this another day when I wish I could sleep late instead? Why did I pick 1000 words when I could have picked 500? Five hundred is easy. One thousand feels like it’s impossible. How am I going to finish what I started?
But surely I will. We all will.
I both hate and love this, by the way. That I create all these hoops for my mind to jump through every single day. I always hear a little starter gun at the beginning every day — Annnnd she’s off! I don’t know what else to do, though, with my brain. It exists to make up problems, and then to solve them. And I feel like if you’re here, reading this, doing this project, you’re exactly the same way.
Today’s guest contributor, is Katie Kitamura, author of four books, including the sublime and fascinating forthcoming novel, Intimacies, which Brandon Taylor called, “A perfect novel--taut and seductive.” Katie’s donation pick today is Red Canary Song, and she’s talking to us today about being alone with your novel:
“Writing a novel is difficult for all kinds of reasons, but what I find hardest is the durational quality to it. It takes years to write a novel, and often many years more until you figure out whether it’s actually any good or not. In order to write a book, you have to live with that uncertainty, and you have to find a way to do the work alongside it, day after day.
That sounds like a lonely task, and people often say that writing is a uniquely solitary act. But it doesn’t have to be, and there are ways to make sure that you are writing with other people. Reading is the main way I do this. Every time I feel a little too alone with my novel, I read, until I have the sense that those books and writers are keeping me company as I continue on my way. When that fails, I watch a piece of dance, or listen to a piece of music, or look at a piece of art.
Of course, you already know this, because you’ve signed up for a two week experiment in writing with other people. I love the big heartedness of #1000wordsofsummer, the sense of being in a room full of people doing the same thing as you. With each new book, I have the feeling that I’m starting from scratch and learning my craft all over again. That’s one of the great pleasures of writing. It’s also a reason why I’ll be taking part in #1000wordsofsummer too, trying to clear my desk and get the words down on paper, putting one foot in front of the other, and seeing where it takes me.”
One foot in front of the other,