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Writing My Way Through It
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Last year, on the second day of #1000wordsofsummer, I had a sudden and terrible breakup. It happened in the afternoon; it caught me off guard. It was right before I had to do an interview with a journalist about the project. I felt like I had been hit in the head with a shovel, very specifically that: a shovel. Like I can still hear the shovel-striking-skull noise when I think about that moment now. A cartoon clang.
I remember I went down to the levee and I took a walk and cried a little bit. I work in an intense way to make this project happen for you and for me. Generous authors spend time writing letters to support us. We raise money for charity. You all work so fucking hard. It’s a big deal to me, an honor to provide the structure for it all. I spend close to two months a year on it. How was I going to deal with this sad moment in my life? I was going to keep going. It was like I activated my compartmentalization superpower. Then I took a deep breath and I pushed down all my feelings into a little box in my chest
And then I had to spend the next twelve days pretending like nothing was wrong. Not only that nothing was wrong, but that everything was actually perfect, because we had all shown up here to do this thing and I would be damned if this other human being was going to ruin it. And I half-heartedly wrote fiction for the next twelve days for my daily word count but most of it was garbage. I would let myself sob for an hour in the afternoon, very Holly Hunter in Broadcast News, after I had finished all the writing I had to do for the day and then I would shove all the feelings into the box. I would lock in the vulnerability and then I would move on and I would write my positive emails and get on social media and tell everyone they could do it and I really meant it and I got a lot out of it and I was so proud of everyone but also? Absolute misery.
I can still feel the box in there, throbbing with twelve days of feelings. I never properly let them out. Talk about the body keeping the score. Bad feelings: 1000, Attenberg: Zero. It is hard sometimes to know exactly how to power through pain that is stuck in you for so long, but I think I just started by telling you about it.
I spent the summer finishing up my edits on my memoir and then I spent the fall getting ready to publish it and I did the best that I could writing fiction, but my focus was on putting out this specific true story about myself, where, unlike with publishing a novel, there was nowhere to hide. Everyone on my publishing team was wonderful and did everything perfectly, but I did not enjoy the publication process for my memoir. I felt sort of terrified of the whole thing, dreaded its publication for months — especially when I had to do interviews, even though I usually love talking about writing. I am proud of this book, though. I hope I can feel better about it someday.
Meanwhile, I snuck in my time writing fiction here but it was hard to properly invest in it; there was just too much back and forth between being public-facing and trying to find the energy to hide in myself to write. This was difficult for me, not being able to write comfortably. Because fiction is how I process everything.
But I have hope that this summer I will finally be able to write my way through it all. That is what fiction does for me. It helps me work through my feelings. And I hope to grow from it. I hope to learn and become a better person, and I hope to make great art. But goddamn, more than anything, right now, I want to write through that particular moment in my life at last.
So this is my #1000wordsofsummer, what I hope to accomplish. Tapping into the vulnerability at last. Unlocking the box with all the feelings, writing it down, and moving the fuck on.
What are you writing through?
Nine days to go.
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).