Day 8 of #1000wordsofsummer 2020

Hi friends,

Today you will write 1000 words. Because you value yourself and your dreams and your goals, and writing these words are a part of a vision you have for your life. And you are ready to enact that vision. It is time.

Because you are a person who writes, whatever that might possibly look like for you. Maybe it means being a published author, maybe it means being a good communicator. Maybe you have stacks of filled journals all over your home which you look at fondly to remind yourself of all the thoughts you’ve had, all that you feel inside of you. (OK, that’s me, anyway.) But you are a person who writes, you get to say that about yourself every day that you do it. Here is a thing I do, here is an important part of me: I write.

Today’s guest contributor is the big-hearted, endlessly entertaining Jenny Boylan, who is the author of 16 (!) books, including the memoirs Good Boy and She’s Not There. Her column appears on the opinion page of the New York Times on alternate Wednesdays.

“The most important thing about writing is making it into a practice— like when you’re learning the piano, to be sure, but also, like Zen.  It is a thing that you do each day (or nearly) and the success of any particular project (or writer) is not about what you do any given day, or month, or year, but over the course of a lifetime.  If you get writer’s block, the main thing you need to do is lower your standards.  You cannot make something better in revision if you have not written the questionable first draft first.  So get in there and write the sad song; later you can take that sad song and make it better.

I teach a course in Revision at Barnard that goes like this: young writers come up with a 7-page story; we talk about it with each other, the strengths and weaknesses. Three weeks later they turn it into a 21-page story; we talk about that one too.  Three weeks later they turn it into a 3-page story, which they read out loud.  The fourth draft is any length they choose.  By then they know whether the story wants to be long or short: a novel, or a poem.  It also makes clear that any single draft is not the final word on what that story might become.

It is typical for a writer to come up with something and then declare, either, ‘I am a genius!  All shall worship me and despair!’ (on the one hand) or, ‘This sucks.  I’m a loser. I guess I should have gone to law school.’ (On the other.)  Usually, neither of these declarations is true.  Most of the time, what you need to do is get back in there and write that piece again, in a new way, with an open heart and a sense of exploration.”

Today would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday. Learn about her here.

Open hearts today.