Today you will write 1000 words. You will write these words because you take yourself seriously as a person with ideas and talents and dreams. You are not to be dismissed by anyone, and most of all not by yourself. You will write these 1000 words because you woke up today and told yourself you could, and you are running the show here. No one else but you.
No letter from a peer today, just me talking to you. Did I ever tell you about the time I wrote my first book? I’ve been doing this for so long I probably have, but there’s enough new faces here that it bears repeating.
That was the summer I wrote 1000 words a day every day, until I had most of a first draft. I was living on someone else’s land in Northern California, for free, watching someone’s big dog, spending most days on my own. I did this in exchange for the time and space to make an attempt at writing something longer than I had ever had before. I had always written stories and poems because I had them inside me and they just sort of squeezed out of me no matter what. I had written some essays, too, and I’d had a blog before they were called blogs. I wrote then because it was impossible not to. I just had something to say.
But sitting down to write when I had a wild hair of inspiration and felt it pouring out of me was different than really committing to something and pushing myself to write even if I didn’t feel like it. I was going to be flat broke by the end of the summer, and I would have to find work again when I got home. I was treading water in a career that paid my bills but I was apathetic about that work and had no desire to grow in the field. What I loved was books. All the great, beautiful books I had ever read in my life, and I would get to the end and heft them in my hand and think, I want that. How do I get that? If I wasn’t here to write, what was I doing here? I better take this shit seriously.
And so, every day I got up and committed to writing those 1000 words. I didn’t know how the day was going to begin or end. Each time I sat down to write it felt like a risk. Truly walking to the edge of something each morning and thinking, “Here we go again,” and then just jumping. Who knew what I would find? I only knew I had to try.
And I can tell you that I did this because I believed in myself. There are so many reasons to write, but right now I’m not talking about the why. This is about the how. How did I do it?
Well, there’s the facts of it. The process. I sat down every day and handwrote it in notebooks and then I eventually typed it all up and then I caressed each word until it became a collection of short stories good enough to sell.
OK, but how did I do it. How does anyone do it? How does anyone sit down on a regular schedule and think: I want to do this and I will and I can. How do we take ourselves seriously? You just have to decide that you do. You have to say: I’m going to show up every day because I want it and I know I can make it happen.
You’re already there—I don’t know if you can see it fully. You’re on the sixth day of this highly imaginary and yet somehow totally real project that you signed up for. By the time the day is done you’ll have already created so much work, because you decided you could do it. You’re already there, do you get it? You’re already there because you’re here.
Now get to work.