1000 Words. 32,000 companions

To be honest, I wrapped up 2023 feeling isolated creatively, and not without reasons. I work remotely; most of my face-to-face conversations involve a two-year-old; and I’m just crossing the halfway point of drafting a novel. All solitary endeavors.

Moreover, despite my best efforts, I’ve been listening to the gremlin that likes to whisper in my ear, especially when I sit down to write, that I’m not only isolated creatively but also shut out.

The world of creative writing can be a tough, competitive one, and every rejection adds fuel to the gremlin’s case. And then there’s the comparison game. 

But being shut out: it’s actually absolutely not true.

The first few weeks of 2024 delivered a tool for counteracting this discouraging gremlin, the book “1000 Words: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round.”

In a category all its own, this book is not so much how-to-write manual as a party I’m welcoming into my house. With every section I read, I imagine author Jami Attenberg sitting in my living room to chat with me about this art we love, introducing me at points to this or that literary friend who has something helpful and encouraging to say.

This is because “1000 Words” was a literary movement – #1000WordsofSummer – long before it was a book. One summer, Jami and a friend, who teaches high school, committed to writing 1000 words a day for two weeks to help them both (but the summer-liberated teacher in particular) jump start their writing. Even that first year, many other writers joined in. Now, it’s a thing people do every summer. It’s also a newsletter by Jami featuring guest posts by an amazing array of published authors on craft or writing life. And 32,000 writers join in.

I get the newsletter now, but I didn’t really understand the 1000 Words phenomenon until I started reading the book this week.

A few highlights I’ve taken to heart:

  • Jami writes: “I write because I believe in myself, and that I have something worth saying.”
  • “Resist the urge to abandon the ship,” she says about writing a first draft. “I repeat–do not abandon the ship. Do not get on that little lifeboat and paddle back to shore. Do not get depressed and drink a bottle of rum and then jump overboard. Do not radio for help and get airlifted home and then apply to law school instead.”
  • “There is no wrong path, because we always must write through the mistakes to find the solutions.”

Jami Attenberg’s voice is friendly, but the more of the book I read, the more I see it’s also closer than a friend; it’s MY voice. Or rather, she gives voice to my big sister iteration – the wiser, more confident, less hesitant, solider version of me I sometimes imagine when I want to feel that much bigger and bolder.

“The best part of being a writer is the actual writing and the community you build along the way,” she writes – and I am embracing this.

In this spirit of community, I want to blog this year about books by writers I know. There are a lot of them and I’m excited to share, so look out for some heartfelt book recommendations in the months ahead.

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