Writing in Every Tense
Inspiration from Jami Attenberg.
BOOK CLUB MEETING THIS WEEKEND!
PAID SUBSCRIBERS: you’ll receive the Zoom link tomorrow. FREE SUBSCRIBERS: there’s still time to join in. Just $5 for the month! Click below.
I loved this part of thenewsletter this week:
“While I was on tour, I met a man in Jacksonville who told me that he had multiple projects in play that he had been working on forever and ever. He sounded jovial about it, and I was happy for him that he loved writing so much.
His wife, however, was ready for him to finish something. Recently she had made him write a check for $2000 to a particularly unsavory and headline-seeking Florida politician (who shall remain unnamed so as not to sully the positive vibes of this letter) and she told him if he didn’t finish at least one of his projects this year, he had to send that check. And let me tell you, that man was gonna finish it.
At last those Florida politicians were finally supporting the arts.”
Now that’s what I call motivation to finish what we start!
I attended that very book tour stop Jami made here in Jacksonville on Saturday. And what a wonderful time it was. As the longtime leader of 1000 Words of Summer, a two-week online writing challenge that I’ve participated in many times1, Jami knows how to rally the troops. Her talk at the Jacksonville Public Library was equal-parts motivating and encouraging: I wouldn’t be surprised if that man whose wife wrote a check Paid to the Order Of that unnamed politician went right home afterward and got to work.
While Jami was signing my copy of her new book, 1000 Words: A Writer's Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round, I asked her about balancing her fiction-writing practice with running an active online community. Her answer? Compartmentalization. Period.
I did some writing during Jami’s talk. She asked us to write about why we write, but in different tenses: why we wrote back then, why we write now, and why we will write tomorrow. Here’s some of what I jotted down:
I wrote then because, when I’d lay everything out for myself to see, the page was a container. My thoughts lived there now, not inside of me. I wrote then because it freed me up to feel other things.
I write now because it helps me understand myself. It allows me to better express who I am—really, truly—to the people in my life.
I will write tomorrow, because when I do, my thoughts and feelings work with me, not against me, when I five them paper and a pen and a voice. I’ll write tomorrow because, when I stick with it, I amaze myself.
If you have time this weekend, try Jami’s exercise yourself.
Why did you write back then?
Why do you write now?
Why will you write tomorrow?
Or, if you’re itching to write and haven’t yet, maybe try this:
Why didn’t you write then?
What’s keeping you from writing now?
What do you think would help you make space to write tomorrow?
READ ALONG WITH US
Jami Attenberg’s brand new book 1000 Words: A Writer's Guide to Staying Creative, Focused, and Productive All Year Round is this summer’s selection in my Book Club for Writers.
If you’re new around here, we read one writing-related book per season and meet on Zoom to chat about it. It’s a gas!
This Sunday, we’re discussing Haruki Murakami’s book Novelist as a Vocation. I finished the book this week and loved it. Here’s one of my favorite parts, emphasis mine:
“If you’re not (sad to say) a rare genius, and you wish to, gradually, over time, raise the level of the (more or less limited) talent you do have, and make it into something powerful, I believe my theory might be of some value. You toughen up your will as much as you can.”
Join us this Sunday at 1PM EST to discuss Haruki Murakami’s wisdom on the art of toughening up our will to write. Even if you didn’t have time to read the whole book, I’d love to have you! We’ll chat about our own processes and spend some time on a few writing prompts. A guaranteed blast! 💥
If you’re not a member already, you can join the book club by becoming a paid subscriber of this newsletter for just $5/month (cancel anytime: seriously), or save 17% and subscribe for the year. You’ll also get 10% off my writing classes!
Paid subscribers will receive the Zoom link to the book club tomorrow via email. A recording of the discussion will be available afterward for paid subscribers only.
ONE MORE THING
I have an essay on the Rose Books Hotline this week! Call 1-844-300-ROSE (yes, on your actual phone) to hear me read it.
Thanks for reading! Hope to see you at book club on Sunday.
Jami Attenberg is hosting a Mini 1000 challenge at the beginning of March. It’s free to participate, and it will get you writing. Learn more below.