Trust in the Process, 1000 Words at a Time

From May 31 to June 13 I took part in 1000 Words of Summer. This is a two-week period where you (voluntarily) add 1000 words to a project – a current project, something brand new, or even a couple of projects – daily. The goal is, of course, to add a significant number of words (ideally 14,000 or so) in a fairly quick timeframe, giving you that impetus, that drive and that desire to keep going, to push through, to realize that hey, there really is something there, something tangible that can be built upon, that might even turn into a book, a screenplay, a whatever it is you’re writing.

It is, of course, the brainchild of author Jami Attenberg who had the idea for the 1000 words writing sprint four years ago. I can’t remember if I participated in the very first one, but I have done it a few times, and it’s always a fantastic exercise in perseverance. Attenberg is an extremely gracious host who sends daily newsletters to the participants’ collective inboxes to inspire us. Sometimes there is also advice penned by other authors, sometimes Attenberg herself is our cheerleader, but no matter who is doing the writing, I think I have saved every single one of them. These emails are meant to keep us focused, grounded, and believing in ourselves as we push through to write 1000 words every. single. day.

I love these two weeks every summer and look forward to them even if by about day nine I’m thinking oh my god whyyyyy. I love the community 1000 words brings to my writing. I love scrolling through the hashtag and celebrating milestones with people, reading about their triumphs, and of course commenting with support and cheerleading for those who are struggling to find the words, for those who have to cut more words than they write, for those who are just not sure they belong.

But the great thing is that each time I participate I learn something about myself and about my writing. My writing self has definitely evolved since I decide to try my hand at writing fiction and creative non-fiction a few years back, of course, but each 1000 Words session I learn a little bit more about who I am.

This year in things I learned doing 1000 Words, I learned that I am an early morning writer after all. I kind of hate myself for morphing into a morning person, as morning people have always been my nemeses. But, when I realized that I was setting my alarm a half hour or even an hour earlier to get up to write, I was secretly thrilled. Look at me go, isn’t this what real writers do? I mean, some, sure. Lots write late into the night and lots write in chunks throughout the day, there is no *real* way to write, all writing time is valid writing time. But there was something about being up not just early but before the sunrise early (which is VERY early in the late spring in this part of the world, just saying) that was beyond motivating for me and so I’m going with it.

And in these early morning sessions, the 1000 words just flowed out of me and onto the page. It might be a coincidence, or it might be *a thing*, but and I have a couple of theories as to why it seemed easier than ever this time.

When I pre-ordered Jami Attenberg’s All This Could Be Yours a couple of years ago, she included a cool postcard from New Orleans and this rad sticker of her dog, Sid. I put him on my notebook for inspiration.

The first is that I’m getting someplace with this project of mine. It feels real now and I’m figuring it out. I’m understanding my characters, learning about who they are and what they need, and having them do things that make sense for them now.

I’m also taking full advantage of all the writing workshops and author talks and readings and everything I’ve been to regarding writing, and I’m just… writing things down, putting words on the page. I’m no longer backspacing through entire sentences because they “just don’t look right.” I’m leaving shitty grammar and sentence structure in there for now and I’m writing small notes for myself like “you need to fix this” and “what the hell does this even mean???” so that when I go back to slash my way through, I can figure those things out.

And finally, I’m trusting myself to get this done. Trusting the process: the write, delete, write again, revise, write… Because it is a process and there is truly no other way to get it done. That old saying, something like “If you’re going through hell, keep going” really applies here. Getting the words on the page, trusting that eventually, after much hell (likely) but not the worst sort of hell (probably) something beautiful will be formed, that all those creative hours will lead to something good, eventually.

As always, I was sad to see the end of 1000 Words of Summer, but the motivation to continue on, to write more, to see this project through to the end, to set a stupidly early alarm and write stupidly early in the day, has remained. And that in itself is a beautiful thing.

One response to “Trust in the Process, 1000 Words at a Time

  1. This is FAB. And your third-to-last paragraph is stop on in terms of what works for me.

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