Day 3 #1000wordsofsummer 2022
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Today you will write 1000 words. Because what if you never tried this, made this beautiful mess, got deep and sticky with your words? What if you never checked this off your list of things to do? The list, your burning list of dreams and desires and goals and words and ideas. The shit that sets your heart on fire. What if you were left wondering if you could have?
You can, though. I am here to tell you that you can. Start with one sentence, and the rest will follow. Start now.
Today’s guest author is Sara Novic, who I like to hang out with whenever I go to visit my family in Philadelphia. She recently published her second novel, the phenomenal True Biz, which was a New York Times bestseller and a Reese’s Book Club pick. Celeste Ng said of it: “Part tender coming-of-age story, part electrifying tale of political awakening, part heartfelt love letter to Deaf culture, True Biz is wholly a wonder.” Sara’s charitable donation will go to DHCC.
Here’s Sara talking about the negotiable value of advice and what to do with it:
“The literary world is big on advice. Because it’s such a miry and solitary business, lots of beginning writers seek some confirmation that things get clearer as you go. Because it’s such a miry and solitary business, lots of “established” writers love to give it, to feel that after spending big chunks of time alone in a room we might have some lessons of value to impart.
I get the appeal. I went to graduate school specifically to access this kind of knowledge. In this very newsletter there is a wealth of really good—sometimes almost uncannily applicable to my own situation—craft tips. And as a teacher, I’ve been known to wax on about craft, too.
But, dear writer, not all advice is good advice. Most importantly, not all advice is good advice for you. Have I tried waking up in the dark to write before the day begins because famous writers said I should? Of course. Did my Deaf ass have a complete freakout about how I might never be able to write proper dialogue because Stephen King said writers should read their work aloud and listen to the cadence of their characters’ conversations? You know it!
These tips work for lots of writers, but they certainly didn’t work for me. And that’s the real trick of it—finding your people, the ones who share your vision and help you get it across the finish line, instead of trying to drag it somewhere else.
I wrote parts of what would become my first novel while I was a college student. I cared a lot about the ‘rules’ of writing because I wanted to get good grades and keep my scholarships, which are fine reasons to do something, but also have nothing to do with writing. The book came out all right, in the end. I felt I had given it my all, and a lot of readers enjoyed it.
But when it came time to write another book, those rules no longer applied. There were few books to look to as models for creating fully-realized Deaf characters, even fewer that engaged with the transformation of American Sign Language into two-dimensional form. To do it right, things were going to have to get weird.
Writing True Biz was hard, and the book did come out a little bit weird, and it was met with some resistance from some very smart people because of that. But it was also the book I wanted, and needed, to write. And in a real twist of fate, it turned out to be the book a lot of people needed to read.
Risk-taking doesn’t always mean commercial success, or even the structural integrity of a project holding together. Then again, if I’d stayed sitting at my desk trying to write like Stephen King, things definitely wouldn’t have worked out. For everything there is a season: a time to listen to a brilliant writer friend or editor, and a time to rip out your (metaphorical?) hearing aids and do whatever the hell you want.”
Today is a great day to do whatever the hell you want.