Essay Camp Day 3
Write when writing feels impossible.
“To become a writer, I had to learn to interrupt, to speak up, to speak a little louder, and then louder, and then to speak in my own voice which is not loud at all.” —Deborah Levy
Welcome to the third day of Essay Camp!
I hope that those of you who chose to participate have managed to settle in. May your virtual bunks be comfortable, your virtual bug spray plentiful, and the virtual fireflies an inspiration (be careful around the virtual punch bowl though; there are bees!)
Most writers are great at making excuses. There is always a reason why we can’t write. And yes, life really does get in the way. There are children and elderly parents to care for. There are bills to pay and TV shows to binge watch. A stable life has its own distractions that can make writing hard enough, but then just when we’re feeling comfortable, everything changes or falls apart again. We get pregnant. We change jobs or cities. We get sick, or fired, or divorced. I promise that I will never tell you to “use it” when it comes to personal hardship or tragedy, as if all the things that make living (and writing) harder can somehow always be transformed into artistic “material.” That’s bullshit. What doesn’t kill us mostly just makes it harder for us to write.
Of course, this is exactly why it’s so important to get into the habit of writing anyway, even when you find it hard to do so. I do not mean that you have to carve an hour or more out of every day to write no matter what, because that is often impossible. But what about twenty minutes? What about ten? It is easier to give this advice than it is to take it, of course. But if we want to develop as writers, we must write, and not only when we think we have some brilliant idea, or when the conditions are perfect.
“Whatever you're meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” —Doris Lessing
Today as you write, see if it interests you to try writing in a way that actually feels less than ideal. Only do this if you feel you would like a challenge. Maybe your circumstances are already non-ideal enough! But if you do want a challenge, try experimenting with writing somewhere other than where you find most comfortable. Prefer to write at home? Try writing in a coffee shop. Like to write to music? Try writing without it. If you usually write a Five Things Essay in an hour, see what happens if you only give yourself 30 minutes. If you’ve tried to do a Five Things Essay but can only make it to number 3, push yourself to get to 5. Make the sections shorter if you need to.
Developing a strong writing habit is always a balance between giving ourselves as much comfort and support as possible, and developing the ability to keep working when things inevitably go south.
Let’s get started!
Writing Assignment, Day 3
Please write a Five Things Essay. Remember, you do not have to edit any of these yet if you don’t want to or don’t yet have the time (I’m not). Just write a raw rough draft. If you need to make the sections shorter in order to get to 5 during your allotted writing time, then do so. I like to think of this exercise as opening a series of doors in your mind. Keep going to keep exploring.
Alternate Option 1: Freewriting
You know what to do. Just write. Try to challenge yourself in the ways suggested above if you want to. Otherwise, don’t.
In case you need a prompt:
Write about the saddest lunch you ever ate.
Write about a party.
Write about a room in which something bad happened, without ever mentioning the bad thing.
Write about what your life would be like if you lived in this apartment.
Write an open letter to a person or entity that is unlikely to respond.1
Write about strawberries.
Write about a time you were seasick.
Write about moths.
Alternate Option 2: Rebel Mode
Do your thing. Work on your own project, in whatever way you see fit, for as long as you can.
Reading Assignment, Day 3
Read an essay from the list of recommended essays. If you haven’t already, try to take an extra ten or fifteen minutes to read one of the longer ones. I particularly recommend you try Dickens, Dillard, Li, or Chee. Remember, please give the PDFs a few minutes to load.
Time To Write!
And that’s it—let’s do it.
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