Today you will write 1000 words. Because we are all coming out of a very terrible year and this is one thing you can do for yourself, one gift you can give yourself. Writing these 1000 words. Today this one is for you.
Whatever that means for you. It might just mean powering through a tough spot in your work, challenging yourself to something you’ve been afraid to try before. Giving yourself the gift of feeling proud of yourself for accomplishing something. Or it could mean just writing something gentle and soothing to yourself in a journal. A gift of tending to yourself. For me, writing something purely for myself usually entails writing a scene about eating or having sex, because contemplating both on the page just entertains me so much, so I might give that a try. Whatever the sweet spot, give yourself the gift of 1000 words that will make you feel great today. We all deserve it.
Some housekeeping: I will be online all day today chatting and answering questions. If you’re on the slack, I’m going to create an ask-Jami-anything channel. If you’re on twitter, I’ll be looking at the hashtag. If you’re a paid subscriber, I’ll look at the messages here. Basically ask me anything about writing/creativity/career stuff and I shall try my best to get some kind of response to you, even if it’s just to say hello back.
Our guest contributor is Dantiel W. Moniz, author of the dazzling debut story collection Milk Blood Heat, which was a Roxane Gay Audacious Book Club pick. Dantiel will start next fall as an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Creative Writing Program. Her donation pick today is Mutual Aid India.
“I’m going to be really honest—I didn’t write a single new thing, a thing that was for me, all of 2020. I had just finished a stint as a Visiting Writer the December before; I was in the middle of revising my forthcoming collection with my editor; and I was thinking a lot about where the money might come from next. I had what I told myself were valid excuses. But I had two writing residencies coming up, one in the spring and one in the fall, and it was fine. The work—the will to work—would come back. I wasn’t writing but I was still a writer, right? It was March, and in a couple of days, I would embark on San Antonio with dear friends I hadn’t seen in at least a year and that would jumpstart it all, surely. And then, well, we all know what happened next. Between the pandemic, protests, and the presidential election, the not-writing folded over and consumed me. And mostly, what I felt was shame. I thought, what if this is it? What if I never write again? All this expectancy people have for me, wasted.
I think about how I might have been better able to mitigate those fears if our art-making wasn’t so entwined with a capitalist kind of productivity. With this drive for the next book and the next book and the next book without real consideration for the time it takes to produce art or the distinctiveness of our individual processes or that sometimes the world simply requires one to witness. The fallow periods and day-dreaming and TV-watching. The energy it takes to care for and nourish our bodies (especially this; how easy to forget we are animal and we need). All things that are essential to writing but aren’t classified as writing. Actions and in-actions necessary to refill the well.
Thankfully, I have a strong community of friends that reminded me to allow myself grace, and I was able to begin the process of shedding that shame. To sit with myself and distinguish between my own internality and an external pressure I’d somehow allowed to slip inside. And after I could identify where the fear was coming from, after I acknowledged and released it, I felt excitement and relief. I could feel the words burbling inside that quiet place in my mind that draws me to language and stories in the first place. It was always there.
If any of this feels familiar, I’m telling you the way I was told—extend yourself grace. You’re okay. Whether it’s been a few days since you last touched the work or a few years, it’s yours and it’s there whenever you’re ready. Remember you like this; that you’re called to it. Take a deep breath. Hold it for five seconds. And release. Ok. Let’s get back to the page.”
Day 13. Let’s get back to the page.