Day 4 of #1000wordsofsummer 2019
Today you will write 1000 words. You will sit down at your desk or kitchen table or couch or at the café or the bar or the library or the break room or the park bench or the front seat of your car or wherever it is you go to write and you will pull out your notebook or legal pad or phone or laptop or whatever it is you write on and you will crank up some music or put in some earplugs or switch on an application that will block your internet access or whatever it is you need to do to shut out the noise and you will sit up straight and you will turn your gaze inward and your imagination outward and you will be disciplined and you will be rigorous and you will be determined and you will write. 1000 words. Today.
I say it to you as much as I say it to myself. Do you know these letters are for all of you but for me too? Do you know that every day I get up and tell myself to sit down and do the work? I have been publishing books for fourteen years and it is the same challenge every day and it is a gift and a blessing that I am allowed to do it but it is always hard. And it is something worth fighting for. The writing.
Our guest contributor today is Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, author of the impeccable, inventive, and groundbreaking story collection, Friday Black, which was a New York Times bestseller. Among numerous accolades, Nana received the prestigious 2019 PEN/Jean Stein Book Award. I loved his book a lot.
“In summer 2018 I was exactly where I’d promised myself I’d be for so many years before. My debut was a few months from dropping. I’d finally done the thing. I was terrified. Also, I was starting to realize some pretty grim realities about how taxing it might be to have your art really out in the world and felt extremely unsure about all of it. So, when Jami began to advertise the push for 1000 words a day I dove in, if only to go back to what I knew: writing, and not talking about writing I’d already done.
A lie I’d convinced myself of was I’d never had a ‘real’ writing routine and that I wasn’t the type to write every day. And yet, after that first day doing the 1K I felt a remembering sharper than nostalgia. I felt thrown back to the summers between my college semesters, back in Spring Valley, Rockland County where, after closing at the mall, I’d take the bus home. The whole ride brightened by the ideas I would get to put on the page. I’d speed walk from the bus to a basement where the hours of 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. were silent and mine. I did this every time I closed. In those late night/early morning summonings I became a writer. I didn’t realize it then, but that’s what was happening.
And last year, some of those stories that I’d written on a Lenovo netbook perched on top of a dresser in a basement would arrive as part of my first book. I’d forgotten how I’d gotten there: sitting down demanding something, anything of myself with what little slices of time I could afford.
When last summer’s challenge came around I was drawn to the idea because it felt so foreign, so impossible. Sometimes impossible and familiar are opposite heads of the same coin. I felt like I was starting from scratch with a map I’d drawn years ago and forgotten. Sometimes all it takes is a flip, a push, a step. I wrote something like twenty-one thousand words over the course of those days. Before I knew it the thousand words was the highlight of my day.
So now that I am on this side of whatever it is to have a book out in the world, I offer my honest encouragement. This, this part where you make something from nothing, is where the magic is. At least for me that has been the case. It isn’t in awards (though those are dope), it isn’t in literary ‘parties’ (I put parties in quotes because I kind of feel that for white people the primary requirement for something to qualify as a party is cheese availability), it for damn sure isn’t in flight after flight. The secret is the secret is out. To be a writer you must write. You must read. You have to put words down on a page. It is easy to decide that you ‘aren’t the type,’ but I found, to my surprise, that maybe you get to decide. Maybe you already decided and forgot. Do it because you want it. Do it because you can. I’m actually pretty sure of it.”
Write well today,