Day 6 of #1000wordsofsummer 2022
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Today you will write 1000 words. Because you want to feel a pure sense of accomplishment. How much do we expect from ourselves all the time? We are asked — and we ask ourselves — constantly to do above and beyond. The goalposts keep moving, our milestones are ever-shifting. But here is a finite thing you can do, today, for yourself, for your mind, for your creative self, and (for me, at least) your well-being. One thousand words.
Today’s guest contributor is Emma Straub. Once a wee baby bookseller in Brooklyn, now Emma is the New York Times-bestselling author of six books. Entertainment Weekly called her, “The queen of the summer novel,” and her latest, This Time Tomorrow, recently debuted at #3 on the New York Times bestseller list. With her husband, she owns Brooklyn’s Books are Magic, a truly beloved bookstore. Emma has asked for her charitable donation go to Everytown for Gun Safety.
Here’s Emma on the magic of diaries — and noticing things:
“I am writing this from the middle of my book tour — well, the last day of the first leg of my book tour, the first time I've toured in person since 2016. This might seem odd, but what I wanted to write to all of you wonderful people about is not writing fiction, but the writing I've been doing on the road — keeping a tour newsletter/blog. What to call it? It certainly contains no news. Mostly it contains pictures of people and food and sights and bookstores. Sometimes my face, but mostly not.
My new book takes place partially in 1996, the year that I was 16, and people have been asking me a lot about research. Ha! I want to say, but they are serious. Because suddenly, 1996 is categorized as 'historical fiction,' suddenly 1996 is ancient and dusty. My answer to those people is that my only research was cracking open my diaries, of which there are many. In fairness, the diaries are ancient and dusty on the outside, but on the inside, they are alive, they are wild, they are all over the place and filled with poems and phone numbers and notes to my friends.
I still keep a diary, but now my diary is mostly about concrete things — what I saw, what I did, who I did it with. Not much room for six pages of wild feelings, which is about what I did every day in high school, just reams of paper filled with every feeling and sensation running through my brain and body.
Part of it is that I know myself better now (this is what I tell myself) but part of it also is time — in 1996, my only telephone was a landline and my only internet was AOL instant messenger, which I used sparingly. I used to have hours every day in which I had to entertain myself, and now that I am on tour, I find that those hours still exist, when no one else needs anything from me, and it feels a little bit like finding a lost treasure. There are more hours in the day.
I go home tonight and will be plunged back into my normal life and routine, with all the responsibilities that my life comes with nowadays. What I will miss the most is not the exciting meals in new places, or even the beautiful bookstores filled with readers. What I will miss the most is that strange collection of hours in the middle of the afternoon, like an unexpected late beam of sunlight, that invited me to just slow down and stay a while, and to notice what was around me. That is the part of being a writer that I rush through most often — that glorious part that I think all of us had as youths, when we could fill a notebook with our thoughts about ourselves and our friends and our lives, examined on the most micro-level. I invite you to do it with me, as much as you can. Let's curl up in the sunlight together, and write our diaries, knowing that noticing leads to more noticing, that paying attention to the worlds within us and outside of us fuels everything. The rest of our lives can wait, at least sometimes.”
Happy Day 6 everyone,
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram.
There's always something so helpful in these daily talks that I hadn't thought about. I have two boxes--you know, those cartons copy paper comes in--of my journals starting from 1971. I've looked at them. Such drivel, what minutiae, and oh, the terrible teenage writing! All those feelings! And yet--they have their moments. I'm grateful for Emma Straub's reminder that they are, also, material. I knew there was a reason I've been hauling them from house to apartment to house to apartment all these years. Maybe I won't pitch them just yet.
This is beautiful. I still have all my journals packed away. Now I want to go read them.