Day 7 of #1000wordsofsummer 2019
Today you will write 1000 words. You must write as if you are running out of minutes, hours, days. For there is only one week to go. If that seems like a lot of time of you – how could I possibly do this for another week! – let me assure you it is a short amount. How long does it take to write a book? Months and months, years and years. Seven days is a sneeze in the life of a book. Make use of this time. Pretend these are the last seven days you ever have to write. And then claim them for yourself.
These past 48 hours have been a revelation for me. I’ve been noodling around with this one idea for maybe a month or two, taking notes, making a little outline, writing a few hundred words here and there. It was the thing I turned to when I didn’t feel like working on the new novel. In general, I like to have two things going at the same time when I start generating new work, and always presume one project will eat the other. I hadn’t even thought of it as a full-length book project. I had just been calling it “the weird non-fiction thing.”
Finally, yesterday, during my morning walk, I saw how the weird thing could not be ignored any longer and how it deserved to be treated with respect. How there could be a beginning, middle and end to it – not that I knew what all those parts were, precisely, but I saw that they could exist. I bundled all the ideas together and I sent them off in an email to my agent. He replied: “Whatever turns you on the most creatively is what is going to be the best book.” I felt as if a giant, shimmering rainbow had presented itself in front of me.
Which of your ideas makes you feel the best?
Today’s guest contributor is the brilliant, generous and exquisitely sharp-minded Attica Locke. Attica travels with great ease and success between the publishing and television worlds. Her fourth novel, Bluebird, Bluebird, won the Edgar Award for best novel and was nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Most recently, she was a writer and producer on the highly acclaimed Netflix miniseries, When They See Us; Hulu’s forthcoming limited series, Little Fires Everywhere; and the Fox drama Empire. Her fifth novel, Heaven My Home, will be published in September. I personally would nominate her for president if I could.
“My greatest piece of advice for #1000WordsofSummer is to approach the experience as play. Have fun. This is only possible if you write without judgment, if you have tremendous compassion for yourself during the process. I live by the words of Jane Smiley in 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel: the only way you can fail at a first draft is by not finishing it. Sometimes when I’m not sure I have the bandwidth or energy to write but I know I need to, I tell myself: just hang out with the work for an hour or so and see what happens. No judgment. It’s the number one killer of creativity and productivity.”