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Lessons Learned From Jami Attenberg’s #1000wordsofsummer

How one writer reminded me how to write

Lisa Renee
Jun 29, 2018 · 4 min read
  • My family is eating my life. Everyone must leave, at least sometimes. I need windows of peace in which to produce anything. There are too many bodies in my house, too much need in my life. My nest is unnecessarily full and it’s time for some fledging. Also, I need that ‘room of my own.’ It’s time.
  • Focus is key. I write essays and poetry, so I have lots of notes and lots of ideas rattling around all the time. Which is nice, I suppose, but it also means my focus is scattered. This project forced me to focus on one long essay I’ve been hatching forever. Each day, I sat down and threw up words in the service of one project, instead of darting from concept to concept (which is my standard haphazard approach). It’s brilliant to prune away the extra chatter and focus on one thing for a defined period of time. It’s as if I was given permission to forget about all my other ideas and just tinker with this one.
  • 1000 words a day is a struggle. 500 is more my speed. I crushed a thousand on day one, but I was just so excited and had a lot of ideas to get down. After that, the numbers hovered between 200 and 600. At first, I was demoralized by this. I cursed myself a little for my laziness. But then I realized that it’s not lazy at all, it’s just my method. I wrote some passages I’m really happy about and teased out a whole new perspective for the piece. All the work isn’t visible on the page — the time spent helped me to envision a broader theme that will, hopefully, mean a much more valuable finished product.
  • It works! A little structure, some encouragement, a sense of community and solidarity — these things combined to get me back on my pony after a depressive lull. Also, it was a delightful and much needed distraction while the world burns, a bubble to crawl into where I felt marginally sane and possibly productive.
  • I found a new author to read! Jami Attenberg is now on my to-read list, starting with The Middlesteins. I ordered it today and nothing makes me happier than a new book.

Lisa Renee

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Write it down.