At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Amy Carleton has an essay on #1000WordsofSummer, the public two-week-long writing accountability project novelist Jami Attenberg offered to writers for free, via Twitter, Instagram, and TinyLetter, from June 15th through June 29th of 2018.
Carleton writes about how Attenberg helped created a “supportive literary community” online, and I concur. In fact, I benefitted from it.
I love my work editing other people’s writing, but I have a hard time finding time for my own writing, and sometimes even forget I’m a writer. The #1000WordsofSummer project came at what seemed the worst time for me. I had lost my stepfather of 33 years less than a month before; I was in the middle of moving to a new house; and I was taking part in bringing to light a local #metoo story.
But it turned out to actually be a fortuitous time for me to commit to writing 1000 words a day; it forced me to create the time, to get up earlier, stay up later, do whatever I had to do to be accountable to myself and the others who were writing. I did it every single day for those two weeks, and proved to myself that even in the busiest and craziest of times, you can find time to write 1000 words. I also enjoyed a sense of accomplishment, and felt for the first time in a long time as if I wasn’t self-abandoning the writer in me.
Many writers, in fact, lament over the number of their words that are “wasted” responding to the latest Twitter-drama instead of focusing on their own creative projects. “If you took all the time and all the words you used on Twitter… you could have written a book by now. #sadfacts,” observes one user.
But instead of perpetuating this regret, Attenberg turned her attention to creative empowerment. Within days, there was a hashtag: #1000wordsofsummer, and within weeks, a newsletter with almost 3000 subscribers. Once June 15 arrived, the daily emails from Attenberg commenced — some featuring guest commentary from other writers like Meg Wolitzer, Alissa Nutting, and Ada Limón. I printed out the newsletters each day and highlighted the words that resonated most with me; from novelist Laura van den Berg: “Here is the bottom line: I think often of what a painter said to me at a residency: ‘work makes more work.’ Indeed it does. Let’s do what we can.
Attenberg had no idea her project would have such traction. She was pleasantly surprised, to say the least.
Eventually, what Attenberg began on a lark showed how positive and encouraging online communities can be.
“While it wasn’t necessarily my original intention,” she reflects, “it became clear quite quickly that the people participating in it had created their own corner of the internet. I hadn’t been part of something like that before…And I actually found myself looking forward to going on the internet each day, instead of being full of dread about the news. Because I could check in on how people were doing and seeing their progress and say supportive things to them. For two weeks, I was able to be positive in that space, and experience the joy of others as they made progress in their work.