The Stories We Need to Tell
#1000wordsofsummer begins June 4. Here is an explainer. Prepping suggestions are here. Information on the slack is here.
I write this on day two of jet lag, so forgive me if I sound overly sincere, but I feel lucky I can say these things to you.
I sit alone at this desk every day and wonder sometimes if the things I am working on make sense to anyone but me. Every two years or so a book of mine is published and people read what I have written and hopefully like it and it’s then that I finally know what I wrote did indeed make some kind of sense. It wasn’t just all in my head. These stories were worth telling in the end.
It can sometimes be lonely at the desk, but what keeps me company are the words. The act of processing my ideas and the world around me is deeply satisfying. If I never got published, I would still be writing, I can tell you that much. I just want to tell some stories.
Lately I have gotten to go out in the world again to speak to people about writing and art and life, and what I always find is that I am not alone in this desire to tell stories.
On this most recent tour I met someone at an event who was mired in their academic work, a book that they were due to write, but all they wanted to do was write about things they saw in their neighborhood, the people they met. They fantasized about having the time to document those stories.
At another appearance I met a woman, a single mother, who talked about struggling to find the time to write because she was so busy all the time. When she finally had a week’s vacation, she brought her laptop with her and worked on it while her child played nearby.
At a final event I met a woman who was new to writing, who said she had no idea what she was doing when she sat down to work. But she loved to read and had been curious about writing her entire life. She had to find out what that meant for her.
All of these people had stories to tell. I could see their determination and desire and hunger coming off their face, a potent energy rising from them. I knew they were all going to fight for their time to write. I wished them well with all my heart.
I am confident that you can sit down and do this project ahead of us. People do it every year, every summer, for the last five years. It’s hard but it’s not impossible. It is important to acknowledge the time may not be available to you to write one thousand words a day. Perhaps it is helpful to think of it as a good day's work, more or less. Believing that your stories are worth telling enough to show up for yourself every day. Being present with your work, your ideas, and committing to your project — that is the most important part.
I am equally as interested in the emotional and personal value of writing as I am in the stories we have to tell. There is a deep and important act of fulfillment that comes from sitting down and finally releasing the contents of your brain in a written format. Putting your stories down somewhere. Giving them a new kind of life.
I want that feeling for all of you. I want it if you want it. I want you to have it. I believe that you can have it.
I will leave you with Ada Limon's How to Triumph Like a Girl as the inspiration for the day. Since the first day I read it, I have always thought of it as a rallying cry for my work. Do you have one of your own? A poem, a piece of writing, a song, a scene in a movie, that you can turn to when you need it most? Feel free to share it in the comments below.
You are reading Craft Talk, the home of #1000wordsofsummer and also 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 New Orleans Abortion Fund.
Thank you for this! That is a tremendous poem. Thank you for sharing.
I love Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" and "The Summer Day" to help ground me when I feel far-flung.
Lily Tomlin & Jane Fonda stand in a supermarket, trying to buy a pack of cigarettes. They are ignored — invisible because they’re old. Back in the car, Ms. Tomlin lights up a stolen cigarette. “We have a superpower. You can’t see me? You can’t stop me!” (Grace and Frankie, Netflix)