Firstly, Substack is great and I’m so annoyed that I didn’t find it sooner. I always knew about it but I had never downloaded the app. It’s been just the thing I’ve been wanting and looking for for years!
Because of Substack, I found Summer Brennan, a writer based in Brooklyn, who hosts Essay Camp every year. November has always been an interesting month for me. As you may know, it is Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) where you set yourself the challenge of writing 50,000 words in one month so you have a first draft of a novel. And like a lot of people, I always say I’m going to participate and then never do.
This year I didn’t feel too bad about falling off again as for the first time in my life, I realised that I didn’t actually want to write a book. Not right now anyway. It was a little scary to admit first but I’ve found a lot of peace from accepting this truth for myself right now. I’ve always had the urge to write a book and write it as quickly as possible so critics could say “...and she’s just 24 years old!” but now I think that ship has sailed, and I’m starting to care less about the age I write and rather writing something I actually want to write and something I’m proud of.
Anyway, Essay Camp.
I’m happy to report I completed this week-long challenge (albeit one day late) and had an amazing time!
Essay Camp was a series of emails/posts in-app from Summer giving directions on what our writing task for the day was. The aim was to familiarise ourselves with the literary essay writing form and to have a completed essay by the end of it. For pretty much all the days we had the same task; to write about five things, any five things that came to mind and to stop whenever we wanted. Sometimes this was easy, other times it was a little harder but I loved the exercise.
The great thing about this exercise is that you can end up with five essay ideas or maybe even have a near-complete one by the end of the practice. And if you do this everyday for an entire month, that’s essentially 150 first drafts!
On day one I found myself with a full-length essay on a topic I actually didn’t hate, and I’m now currently in the process of editing and looking for places to submit it to.
I’ve loved this writing practice and it’s definitely something I’m going to incorporate into my regular writing routine.
The practice of essay writing is so incredible to me. I’ve always been a fan of journaling to uncover your true emotions about something but I never knew you could use that same technique to write something to be published or to deepen your understanding of the world around you and not just the one inside your head.
I found myself writing some really compelling things that I didn’t even know were deep inside of me. I found myself surprised at some of the questions I’d come up with, some of the conclusions I was drawing and the ideas I had. I found myself falling in love with writing all over again.
I’m so glad to have stumbled on Summer’s Essay Camp just days before it started. I can’t imagine what my writing journey would look like now without having participated and found this new way to write everyday. I’m even planning an essay collection for next year! I’ll also be posting some here on the blog too :)
If you’d like to follow my writing journey, I made (another) Instagram account to document my process.