The life-changing magic of a tiny goal
Finally finishing #1000wordsofsummer and finding community.
A few days ago, I successfully completed Jami Attenberg’s annual 1000 Words of Summer challenge. I committed to writing at least 1,000 words a day for two straight weeks, and reader - I did it. On Thursday, when I tallied up my progress, I realized I’d added 15,302 words to my manuscript. Not too shabby for a two-week span in which the world was falling apart yet again!
As I said on Twitter, this was not my first time starting the challenge, but it was my first time finishing it. The fact that I didn’t have much else going on helped - despite the fact that most of the country seems to have forgotten about the pandemic, cases of COVID-19 are still spiking in North Carolina and I’m continuing to social distance as much as possible (minus the occasional protest, of course). Less time in the world means more time to write, which I suppose is one silver lining.
The other reason it was easier to stick with the challenge this year is that I am, quite frankly, starving for a sense of community. I’m a homebody and an introvert, so it took about 13 weeks of staying home and my husband going back to school for the loneliness to set in. When it finally hit, it hit hard.
In the beginning, when life ground to a halt and everything shut down, I felt a sense of camaraderie. We were alone, yes, but we were all going through this weird, strange time together. Now, despite the fact that we have not flattened the curve, many people are acting otherwise. I open Instagram and see baby showers and barbecues and birthday parties with not a mask in sight. Which I guess is why this part of the pandemic feels lonelier than all the months that came before it. Instead of a sense of solidarity, I feel resentment. Only some of us are still going through it; everyone else has moved on.
And so it was the perfect time for a writing challenge that offered a community of thousands engaged in the same project. We posted our word counts using the hashtag, we cheered each other on, we were encouraged by Jami’s daily emails, we felt - or at least I did - like something was happening, even if we were just sitting at our desks. Progress and momentum, connection and community. A small goal each day, to reach toward and work for, to sustain us as we fight for bigger, harder-to-achieve things, like ending a pandemic and achieving racial justice.
The momentum is still carrying me, too. Even after the challenge ended, I continued to write every day - not 1000 words every time, but enough. My draft just reached the 60,000 mark, which feels like something. Some days, it feels like everything. 💛
Snack of the Week
I've been in a snack rut these last few weeks, and this giant bag of Hippeas I snagged at Costco were a great way to breath some new life into my routine. They are basically vegan cheese puffs, and they are amazing. I'm not kidding - I ate half the bag in one sitting when I got home from camping yesterday. Trying something new from Costco is always a risk, because if you don't like it, you are stuck with a Costco-size amount. Lucky for me, risk in this case led to reward.
#PublishingPaidMe and a Day of Action Reveal an Industry Reckoning, New York Times. I followed a bit of this hashtag when it was trending on literary Twitter and came to two conclusions. 1. The book industry, like all industries, is racist, and 2. I am really glad I have a day job!!! 📚
Brit Bennett on Fighting Your Own Self-Consciousness While Writing, Shondaland. "I think that desire is really kind of the simplest way to boil down a story. This idea that there's this character that wants something and you're reading this story or you're watching to find out whether they get that thing." Loved this interview with Brit Bennett, and can't wait to read her new book, The Vanishing Half. 👯♀️
How Apples Go Bad, The New Yorker. "The closer an apple is to rot, the more rot it spreads—one spoiling apple, in a crisper drawer or a fruit bowl, or a storage barrel or a cross-country shipping container, or even still hanging on the bough, speeds the rot of every apple it touches, and even of ones it doesn’t touch. " 🍎
A Tiny Challenge
As much as I long for community, I'm also keenly aware of the one I live in. This week, find ways to balance your distance with engagement. Send emails. Attend meetings. Educate yourself. Wear your mask. Change is coming; don't miss your chance to be a part of it.
See you next Sunday! 💌
Want to treat me to a ☕️ to help support this newsletter?
Venmo: @Christine-Hennessey or PayPal Me.
Can't afford a contribution? Forwarding to a friend is also appreciated!