Essay Camp Starts Monday!
Gather your supplies!
Welcome to a special spring edition of Essay Camp, which will run for five days beginning this Monday, May 16th. The time has come to gather your supplies.
Here is what you will need.
Just like last time, in order to attend Essay Camp you will need to show up. All versions of yourself—the talented, the untalented, the sure and the unsure—are all invited and encouraged to attend. Essay Camp is virtual, and happens wherever you are. A hut in a forest. Your office after hours. The locked bathroom of your one-bedroom apartment whilst an angry toddler bangs on the door outside before being dragged away screaming by your spouse. Whatever. It must happen wherever you are mentally, as well, so, over the next few days, see if you can locate yourself. Get out a bullhorn and announce to yourself as loudly as you can that you’ll be doing some creative writing next week, Monday through Friday, every day for five days.
In order to attend Essay Camp, you will need a little time. Ideally this should include time spent actively writing, as well as some additional time spent thinking, daydreaming, reading, or walking. How much time you spend on any of these activities is up to you. You may want to take some time now to figure out when this might work best for your own schedule. Do you write best first thing in the morning? Do you plan to set your alarm for six instead of seven? Will you have an hour to yourself after everyone else has gone to bed? Two hours between work and dinner to go for a hike and then write afterwards? Can you arrive thirty minutes early to work and write in your car? It doesn’t have to be the same time every day, or even the same amount of time, but try to get a sense of when you plan to fit it into your schedule. Remember, this is not a word count-based writing challenge. The goal is to strengthen and enrich your writing practice as a whole.
In order to write, you will need something to write with. Whether it’s a special notebook, a typewriter, a laptop, or a public computer at the library, it doesn’t really matter as long as it serves you. Some writers like to use special materials to honor the process, while others find that low-cost or low-stakes supplies and programs can keep the pressure off. I tend to fall into the latter category, but everyone is different. If you don’t yet know what you prefer, plan to try a few things and see how they strike you. Go to the supermarket or a stationery store and pick up some new pens and notebooks if you think it might inspire you.
As I wrote last time, you must physically exist in the world to write an essay. Where do you plan to write? At the moment, I’m doing most of my writing on the couch, with the coffee table as a sort of makeshift supply desk/project shrine. You may prefer writing in bed or at the kitchen table. If you can manage it this weekend, see if there is anything you can do to spruce up the space you plan to use in order to get ready. If you have a desk, clear away the dust and clutter. If you’ll be writing at the kitchen table, spring for a bouquet of flowers, a new candle, or a pretty bowl of fruit. As I wrote in my post about how to create a DIY writing residency, sometimes it helps to create a sense of abundance and a “container” for your writing if you pamper yourself and your space a little bit first.
So. Now that you know what you will need, here is what you won’t:
There is no need to come to Essay Camp already knowing what you plan to write about. In fact, it’s probably better if you don’t. If you do have some general ideas, that’s fine. But don’t feel like you have to have anything mapped out beforehand. This isn’t NaNoWriMo.
This is an exercise, not a performance. You never have to show anyone what you write during Essay Camp. The only wrong way to be is absent.
I said this higher up in the post, but it’s worth repeating: You do not have to be good at writing to attend Essay Camp. As James Baldwin famously once said:
“Talent is insignificant. I know a lot of talented ruins. Beyond talent lie all the usual words: discipline, love, luck, but, most of all, endurance.”
That’s about it! If you can pull together a little time, a little space, something to write with, and some version of yourself, you should be all set! Between now and Monday, subscribers (both free and paid) will receive two more preparatory posts, one with a suggested reading list of essays to inspire you, and another with instructions for a writing exercise I like to use and will be encouraging called the Five Things Essay.
The instruction emails will go out each morning at 6am, Central European Time. To post and discuss on Twitter and other social media, use the hashtag #EssayCamp. There are close to 5,000 of you signed up this time, so I hope this can translate into a sense of community for those who want it.
If you have any questions, just put them in the comments and I will do my best to answer as soon as I can.
Speak soon Campers!
PS. You may enjoy this short TED talk by Ethan Hawke on giving yourself the permission to be creative. If you haven’t watched it before, I recommend it.
The pitch for becoming a paid subscriber
This is an ad-free space, and all support comes from you. Your subscriptions literally keep the lights on, put tea in my cup and jam on my baguette. All writing costs money to produce in the form of time, food, electricity, a laptop, a roof over my head, my student loans that I’ll be paying off until I die, my health insurance so I don’t wither away, my life-changing jeans, and my haircuts so I don’t look like Hairy Mary Magdalene. It’s how I afford books and newspapers and literary magazines and museum passes and sketchbooks and pencils and brushes and of course, notebooks.
However I know what it’s like not to be able to afford even a few dollars a month. For that reason I also offer student discounts and free subscriptions—just email and say what you need, I’m happy to oblige, no questions asked.
If on the other hand you’d like to sponsor a student or other lower-income reader, you can do so by donating a subscription here.