Right in front of you (Jami Attenberg)

Been talking to some of my students about writing what’s right in front of you instead of worrying about where it’s going to be six chapters from now. If you look over your shoulder when you’re writing – particularly in the early stages of a novel – you might stop yourself from moving forward. You can’t hesitate when you’re generating pages, you can’t question yourself too much. Write the thing that’s easiest first, the thing that’s offering itself up to you, and work your way up to the hard stuff. If you can find an entry point, good lord, take it.

Now I find myself having to apply that same advice to myself. I’ve been seeing a particular house in my daydreams that I know lies in the distance somewhere in my writing. Maybe it’s this book, maybe it’s the next. It’s in the woods, in a small town, and there’s a light on. All my most memorable dreams are about living spaces: hotel rooms, bedrooms, apartments, lofts, houses. I dream of old, lived-in houses, messy houses, brand new houses that I automatically own even though I’ve never paid a dime for them. For every stage of my life there’s a house. There’s a house in Disgrace that’s small, and there’s a house in Housekeeping, too, and I’ve been thinking about those spaces a lot lately. A house is the easiest metaphor to exploit, sure, but sometimes things are easy for a reason.

This house that I’m imagining though is so far in the distance I can’t even begin to see inside it. (Though I have a little idea of who is in there.) So I’m totally letting it go. I’m just going to write the things I know I can write first, even if I have to throw them away. They’re my hurdles, and once I jump them, I get inside that house.

(Jami Attenberg’s Tumblr is here.)


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