We are one month away from beginning 1000 Words of Summer, which begins May 31 and runs through June 13. I have been enjoying people showing up and introducing themselves on the slack, and I highly recommend announcing that you’re participating over there (and even what you’re working on, if you know), if just to hear yourself say it publicly. Not to be all “state your intentions” about it. But, you know: state your intentions.
There are a lot of entry points to 1000 words. For some people they’re just starting out as a writer, and this is their first time investing in their words in a truly focused way. For others, it’s been a long-time goal to finish a specific project. There are people at all stages of life and career. In my mind, everyone who completes this project is a success story, because it’s actually a challenge to focus on anything every day for two weeks in a row, but also it’s a challenge, truly, in our lives, to just commit.
Sometimes I hear about people who keep re-starting the project, just to keep the momentum going once the two weeks are over. There are three years of letter archives to read. In fact, some of you have gone on to your work into something much, much bigger than the two-week project. I asked one of those people, Dan Kois, to tell us about his experience with the 2020 session.
“When I turned 40, I got angry at myself that I had completely stopped writing fiction and vowed to actually write the damn novel. Last summer, I was 45 and had about 25,000 disconnected, messy words drafted, mostly written between 10:15 and 11:45 at night. What I needed was to introduce some kind of rigor and accountability into the process, and that's what 1000 Words of Summer supplied me with. When those two weeks were over, I had 40,000 (still disconnected, still messy) words, but what I really had accomplished was to wrench myself into the book, so that it lived in me the other 22 hours and 30 minutes each day, so that I was starting to understand, finally, what the novel was trying to be. In January I sold the novel, Vintage Contemporaries, to an editor. I've got a lot of revision left to go, but it's a book. I'm pretty sure that without the structure of 1000 Words, and the rallying cheer of the others in the group, I'd be a 46-year-old who was still angry at himself.”
While I do not suggest being mired in anger as a way of life (and I suspect Dan was not always angry!), getting mad at yourself is not a terrible way to get your ass in gear. I certainly identify with it. I also think a lot about being hungry for something bigger in my life, and being afraid of sitting still in the same place forever. My personal drivers might be different than yours, but I bet we can all share the word desire.
Can you spend a little time thinking about what’s really motivating you to write? Can you identify it, secure it, and learn how to tap into it when you need it? Where does your drive come from? Once you know, figure out where it can take you.
More soon –
You are reading Craft Talk, a weekly newsletter about writing from Jami Attenberg. I’m also on twitter and instagram. I try to answer comments as best I can, which are open to paid subscribers. You can subscribe here or give a gift subscription here. (If you are a teacher let me know, and I will give you a free subscription.) Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to various cultural, educational, and social justice organizations in New Orleans (and sometimes elsewhere). This week’s donation went to support Give India.
I don't remember how I "met" you, but I did the 2020 1000 Words of Summer thinking it would be an awesome way to get my writing practice in a more regular frame of mind. After those two weeks were finished, I went to your archives and did the previous two years' worth. And I've been steadily working away at my WIP since then. I still haven't finished my first draft, but I'm still in the game. I'm really looking forward to this year's go-around. Thank you so much, Jami, for the continued "keep at it" of your newsletter. It's meant a lot to me over the past year.