Day 8 of #1000wordsofsummer 2019
Today you will write 1000 words. On this eighth day in a row of writing, let yourself reflect for a moment on all that you’ve accomplished so far. You’ve been working hard, and maybe you've grown a little weary. So allow yourself to feel calm and satisfied and genuinely proud of yourself. Soak it in. But only for a moment. Because guess what, suckers. You’re not done yet.
This process is important. And yes, it can sometimes feel incessant and exhausting, but you'll eventually arrive somewhere different than where you were when you started. Even if it doesn’t click right away, the work you are doing these two weeks will inform something down the line. Just yesterday I was thinking about essays I wrote five or six years ago and how they can play into my current non-fiction project. When I wrote them I had no intention beyond capturing a particular moment in my life. And now I can see so clearly that the thinking from the past is extremely relevant to the things I want to write now.
We don’t always get confirmation right away. But we must keep going.
Today’s guest contributor is the absurdly prolific Ben Percy. Ben has written four novels, the most recent among them The Dark Net, two collections of short stories, one craft book called Thrill Me: Essays on Fiction, and a forthcoming story collection called Suicide Woods, which will be published on October 15. He has also written podcasts, comic books, essays for most major publications, and has sold several film scripts. In conclusion, Ben has written nearly everything possible, ever.
I asked Ben about his writing process and where he gets his ideas from.
“It begins with a glimmer. Maybe I overhear a conversation in a bar. Maybe I pause on a certain, curious detail in the Sunday paper. Maybe I wake up with a dream still churning in my open eyes. I then rush to jot down the idea before it...evaporates. If you say to yourself, ‘I need to remember this later,’ you won't. So I send myself an email. Or I scratch something down on a napkin. Or I rip out an article with my notes scribbled in the margins. I harvest these glimmers. And pin them up in my office. Near my desk. So that I flirt with them daily. And eventually -- sometimes weeks later, sometimes months or even years later -- a few of them glow brightly and I realize how they are connected and they come together like a constellation. And I get to work. Often (especially if it's a novel) I outline. Sometimes (especially if it's a short story or an essay) I allow myself to be more impressionistic, chasing a voice, an image. But I always know my endgame. Always. Because when I know my end, everything in the story is building toward that moment, the paragraphs and chapters transferring their momentum, crashing forward like so many dominoes. People are sometimes afraid of the blank page. But if you know your end, even when you're starting from scratch, there is no blank page. The finish line is in sight -- you just have to race to get there.”
The finish line is in sight!