Today you will write 1000 words. Not because you have to, but because you want to. Because it is your heart’s desire. To write these words.
If I could wish for you to take anything away from the past two weeks, it would be for you to have a healthier relationship with your writing. To realize that sitting down to write and taking the time to do it is to your benefit, and, ultimately, for your pleasure. Even if it is a challenge to you (it is almost always a challenge to me!), you shouldn’t feel threatened by it, or have an overwhelming sense of obligation or guilt. I want you to think this instead: I do this because I love it, and I choose it. It is you alone with your words on the page and it is an intimate act. (I know that sounds dirty and I do not care.)
I was chatting with a friend of mine two days ago about writing. She said she had rewritten the same chapter of her new book three times that day. I was talking about how I was not writing my best during this project but I knew I would be soon. I typed: the real writer version of me. She was texting me from a museum in New York that holds a few Richard Serra pieces I really love. I’ve always admired Serra. His work is big and bold and characterized by a particular brand of masculinity that has always made sense to me even when men themselves do not. But we weren’t talking about men that day.
For a moment, though, I allowed myself to picture the series of sculptures at the museum. I hadn’t seen them in a few years. The experience of walking in and around them in a maze, one after another, the sculptures high enough to block out most of the natural light in the room, and how the design of it had destabilized me, until it forced me to find a new understanding of the space I was in. I had enjoyed being off-kilter, and then finding my balance again.
Then I thought of another piece of his I had seen once in Texas, during a cross-country road trip with some friends. It was sixty-seven feet tall and made of steel. (What a fuck you it is, in a way, to make a piece of art sixty-seven feet tall, and I say that as a compliment.) The interior of it was designed to reverberate sound, and when I visited it, I found myself lingering inside it for a while, wanting to live in the soundscape longer, even as my companions were anxious to go. I remember thinking that I was not yet ready to leave this place and face the real world again. That must have been fifteen years ago, at least, but the experience of standing inside that sculpture was trapped within me forever.
I did not say any of this to her, though. We were talking about each other, and our work.
My friend said, “You’re so good to your writer self.”
And, even though I had never uttered these words to anyone before, I replied so quickly I knew it had to be the truth. I said, “Yes, I live in service of the writer...Once I realized the writer was actually a better version of me, it got a lot easier.”
My nearly ritualistic commitment to tending to my writer self is a luxury and an indulgence but it is also a necessary part of my being. I put it ahead of so many things in my life. I just genuinely love that part of me, because I know what it can accomplish, and, when I am lucky, how it can reach people. Doing this project with all of you honors that writer self. Sharing my thoughts on creating, and reading your thoughts, too, during this project, is truly part of being a writer for me. Because the act of writing is the thing that brings me the most joy, and I want that joy for you.
The joy can come from pride in crafting a beautiful sentence, or landing on an important idea, or finding a hidden part of your soul in the process of putting the words on the page. It can come from achieving a professional success. It can come from simply setting a goal to finish something and accomplishing it. It can come from writing something special that means something to someone else. All of these joys I get from writing.
Which of them apply to you? What gives you pleasure from writing? Can you capture that specific feeling? Can you continue to perpetuate it after today? Can you carry on this this version of yourself – your writer self - not just today but in the future? Can you, on your own, feel this joy just a little longer if not forever?
Thank you so much to the brilliant writers who contributed this summer. Please buy all their books. A reminder that you can support me and my work by pre-ordering my book right here or through your favorite store. I will also be on a 23-city tour this fall. Thank you for considering it.
Good luck, always –