The Goal Versus The Mission
If you haven’t seen it yet, the complete list of the contributors to 1000 WORDS the book is here and it is an AWESOME list.
I started this morning thinking once again about how it is OK to not write during times of stress, whatever kind of stress that is, personal or public, local or global. While these letters I like to send to you are primarily focused on creativity and productivity, we are all only human and there is a lot going on out there. (There is always a lot going on no matter what.)
But some of the underlying themes of my own writing—as well as of this ongoing project of writing you letters—are connection and community and compassion. We are about compassion here. Everybody take a breath for a second and think about compassion. Thank you.
Now, as for writing, do not beat yourself up if you need a break or you are finding yourself thrown off from your schedule. Do what you feel you need to do in order to support yourself or your community or, possibly, those you might be extending support to in far off places, wherever those places might be.
And also remember, just writing down how you feel about everything might just be enough for now. It might open up a new vein for you. At the very least, it might make you feel better.
Also, if you can step away from your computer and take a walk, do that.
Let’s all take a little walk today, OK?
I had to go to City Park twice this week
This past Monday and Tuesday, I recorded my parts of the audio book version of 1000 WORDS. I haven’t heard how any of it turned out yet but I completely loved the experience. I’ve hesitated in the past to do my own narration for my books — specifically my memoir, actually, which is when it would have been most appropriate — because it made me feel too vulnerable. I mean, it’s not what I do! I just write.
But with this book, because it has always felt like such a direct conversation between me and all of you I thought: Why not give it a shot? And I’m so glad I did. I thought hard about how to be both supportive and challenging but primarily clear-headed as I spoke. I hope this comes across at least a little bit in the end.
I should mention that all of the words of the contributing writers were performed by voice artists Kamali Minter, Joy Osmanski, and André Santana. So there were real professionals involved here — not just giddy ol’ me. And I am really looking forward to hearing their renditions of all these fabulous authors.
A thing that happened while I was recording is I found some last-minute edits in there. And I have already read this book out loud as one of the drafts of the book, but I still did not catch these little mistakes. (It’s also possible they showed up in the copy edit phase.) If you could have seen my face when I realized there was one typo and two mortifying repetitions of phrases. We got them fixed. A true relief.
I noticed there were a few other things that were sort of too big to change, which I might have written differently today if I had had more time. It’s entirely possible that no one will ever notice them but me. (If you ask me what they are I WILL NEVER TELL YOU.) I just sort of have to accept that they’re in there. That the book is an accurate representation of the way that I was writing at that moment. It’s not bad writing, it’s just different than what I might have chosen now. But I still think it’s a pretty good book! And the spirit is definitely still the same.
I share this with you for two reasons:
One, I cannot recommend enough to read your book out loud in its entirety, if it’s possible for you. It’s such a helpful draft. You’ll notice your quirks of phrases, whether you repeat them or not, and all the tongue-twistery moments that you may or may not want to keep, and you’ll have a way better sense of whether or not your dialogue is clicking.
And two, it is so hard to write a perfect book. I know that plenty of you get stopped up in your work because you want things to be perfect but actually it’s totally fine for things to be a little imperfect in your work, your life. I’m always attracted to the imperfections. They’re what makes characters so interesting to write. Sometimes when I read books and focus on one particular moment I don’t like, it actually makes me enjoy the book more. Sets the perfection of the rest of it in relief.
I definitely strive for perfection in my work. I want to make something beautiful and seamless and special for everyone. Always, I want this. (I know you want this, too!) But striving for that perfection should never get in the way of making it to the finish line or even sitting down to do that work in the first place. Perfection is a goal but not the mission.
Have a good week. I hope you fuck up a little bit.
p.s. All of the subscription money this week is going to Anera.