Today you will write 1000 words. Because you’ve got this. You have these words, they’re in you, and you know how to access them. The rhythm is all there now. You know what you’re working on; you’ve identified it, and you’re secure in it. You are quietly and calmly writing from a place of confidence. When you tap into it, you feel a steady hum. You know how to shut out all the noise. You have found the exact right place where you can sit and think and work. You know what you need to do to trigger your thoughts and flow. You’re in it. You are writing these 1000 words because you absolutely can.
It’s Day 8, and you are ready to finish this thing.
I just wanted to let you know that there is a now a way to pre-order a signed, personalized copy of my memoir, I Came All This Way to Meet You: Writing Myself Home. I’m doing a special campaign with Books Are Magic, the beloved Brooklyn bookstore owned by my pal Emma Straub. Who knows what book tours will look like next year? Not me. But I am definitely coming to New York, and I will definitely be signing the hell out of these books.
I’ve been working on this memoir for two years, and it’s about my life as an artist and a woman and an American and much, much more. You can find out more about the book and pre-order it here, but I can tell you that New York Times bestselling author Liz Moore said it was “One of the most artistically invigorating books I've read in years. It made me want to sit down and write.” Thanks for considering it.
Today’s letter comes from Maggie Shipstead, the New York Times bestselling author most recently of the sprawling, ambitious and invigorating Great Circle. (She is also a phenomenal travel writer.) Maggie’s donation today went to the Sato Project, and she’s talking to us about making peace with your writing.
"Sometimes, especially in a first draft, I get paralyzed by a fear of doing it wrong, of taking an approach that I'll eventually have to undo. I might be worried about a question of plot, or I might be unsure about the voice I've adopted, obsessing over first person versus third or present tense versus past. It's difficult for me to make peace in advance with the inevitable detours, backtracks, wrong turns, dead ends, flat tires. Other times I forge ahead while a big red light flashes that what I'm doing isn't working. I'm ever hopeful that the flashing light is wrong, that, down the road, my first readers will reassuringly contradict the warning. This has never happened.
My gut instinct that something isn't working has always been correct, but--maybe paradoxically--my instinct to push through anyway has also been correct. I needed to put down the wrong thing in order to be able to let it go. The inherent inefficiency of writing fiction makes me anxious, but I think being anxious is a necessary, if unpleasant, part of my process. Writing is really hard, and making peace with it being hard is hard, too. Sometimes you're gonna do it right, and sometimes you're gonna do it wrong. The stuff you get right on the first try won't necessarily be better than the stuff you have to grind away at forever. Probably none of it will ever be perfect because nothing is. So cut yourself some slack. Accept the mess."
I think about this all the time, how nothing is ever perfect. How the biggest trick we can play on ourselves is thinking we can make our work, art, life exactly correct. How we can tread water forever if we get mired in that headspace. Just get the words down on the page today, and then fix them later. You know how to do this. Just write.