Good morning friends,
Today you will write 1000 words. It will not be effortless, but it will be worth it. You will have made something good with your mind.
And you will not worry about where it's going, but maybe for a moment, you will dream about what you would like it to be. Whenever I start a new project, I daydream about books I would love to write someday, books I use as models. A book that has inspired me in a personal way, or one I see as a real achievement. Allow yourself to answer the question: "If I could just write something like..." In reality, you won't actually write anything like that. Because your book will be wholly yours. But we learn from reading others, and we solve problems and invent things by dreaming. And, you never know, maybe yours will be better.
Yesterday I wrote in a real frenzy. I have a bunch of small chapters at the end of the book and I’ve just been knocking them off, one by one, a little greedily. It almost feels decadent, writing these chapters, like I’m popping chocolates in my mouth. Because I’m at the point where I know these characters so well, and I’ve been thinking about them for so long, that it’s just a question of sitting down and opening up my head to them, and letting the words fly. But I have one new character left to invent yet, a late-in-the-game special guest. In a few days, after I do a bit more research, it’ll be like starting all over again with her. And I look forward to the challenge.
A note to new subscribers: Yes, you can start today. You can access all the archives here. And I highly recommend checking out the #1000wordsofsummer posts on twitter or instagram. They are a delight.
Today’s guest contributor is Andrew Sean Greer, who, I can barely type these words without cursing excitedly, just won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel, LESS, which gets to be his introduction for the rest of his life. Holy crap.
“Imitation is part of creativity. A famous composer, a protege of Leonard Bernstein, played his latest piece for an elderly Bernstein who, after listening, said, ‘It’s Chopin. You don’t need me anymore. You’ve learned how to steal.’ Or here’s TS Eliot: ‘Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.’
So what does this mean? It means take your favorite scene from a novel and put it in yours, if only to learn how it functions. Is it still wonderful out of context? If it still works in yours, then there is something technical about the scene that works apart from the characters and setting—and that technical lesson is one you are free to steal. Told backwards, or from a distance, or from the dog’s point of view. Don’t steal the content; steal the technique. Made wholly yours, it isn’t theft—it’s learning to read like a writer.”