“Rule one, you have to write. If you don’t write, nothing will happen.” –Neil Gaiman
“Somehow, even at that young age, you know that writing can be a wind that blows through you, makes you more spacious inside, more free. You feel it from the very start. You will still feel it, decades later.” –Gayle Brandeis
Last year I decided to stop messing around and write already. The decision was born out of working through the “Artist’s Way” program during the pandemic with my dear friend Anna. I learned the ways in which I held myself back, and made myself smaller, and the reasons behind those things. I was ready to step out of the shadows and be visible.
So, I wrote 52 short stories. I showed up every day to the page and I thundered through my anxiety, depression, and past trauma. I wrote through all the negative voices and all the pain.
What I found was a roadmap to calling myself a writer—a way to step further into this cavernous place inside myself to mine and question everything. It’s made me curious and hungry. It’s become my life.
I don’t wake up each day fully confident I’ll someday have a book published, but I do wake up excited to try. The path ahead doesn’t seem so murky anymore and I’m getting to know my golden watery muses. I’ve named them and invited them to tea. We are friends.
While my internal shift feels big, I’d like to share some other things I’ve learned through this process:
*Deadlines work for me. Not only do I need concrete deadlines, but once I have them I can expand on them. I went from publishing one story a week to adding a photo essay and a poem. Having clear deadlines not only pushed me to write and create daily, but it propelled me to explore more avenues of expression.
*My life struggles can be explored in my writing. During a year a lot happens. My daughter graduated from 8th grade and her mental health declined. My mother-in-law passed away. I went on several vacations. In the past, it would have been easy to quit writing during these times, but instead, I used my life in my work. As a result, I processed things in a healthier way for me. I found writing saved me in times when I didn’t think I could go on.
*Each story must be written differently. While I expected to find a clear path to writing short stories, I did not. Each week I’d stare at the blank screen and rewrite the first two paragraphs until the voice of the characters emerged. Nothing about discovering the story ever became easy. Sometimes I’d start writing a character and it was clear they were in the wrong story. Other times, I’d start a story and realize it was far too big. False starts and stops became the norm, and I learned to be patient.
*I’m always going to freak out. You can ask my family, each week I’d get to a point where I’d say “this is the week I don’t finish my story” or “this is by far the worst thing I’ve ever written.” It became a joke and I realize it was part of the discovery process for me. It’s exhausting, emotional, and hard, but I did it 52 times and I can do it 52 more.
*Write around the mess. Life is busy and crazy. While sometimes I’ll be able to write in my now beautiful workspace (photo above), it won’t always be the case. Places I’ve written this year: coffee shops, my van, under a tree at a music festival, outside a hotel room in Oregon, on my phone beside my dying mother-in-law, on my daughter’s bedroom floor, and in various hotel bathrooms and beds.
*Investing in myself. From paying more to remove ads from my website to taking writing classes, this year I’ve learned to invest my time and money into myself. I also hired an editor to give each of my 52 stories a read-through. She was invaluable in moving me forward, showing me the common words/mistakes I made, and helping guide me toward using more descriptions. If you are interested, you can find her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s encouraging, kind, and a phenomenal editor! She also happens to be a dear friend.
*Reading is as important as writing. It’s hard to make time for reading with everything in my life, but it’s vital to my growth as a writer. I’ve joined a few book clubs and I’ve decided to make a goal this year of reading 52 books. It seems a bit overwhelming, but I know reading will improve my writing. Period.
*WordPress is about cultivating relationships. I’ve made so many wonderful friends during this last year! This wasn’t something I expected to happen and it’s been such a wonderful bonus. I can’t thank you all enough for every kind word you’ve given me. As much as I want to think otherwise, having someone read and comment on my writing has kept me going on the weeks when I wanted to quit. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
*I can do hard/scary things. Putting yourself/your words out into the world is a scary thing. I still remember hitting publish on my first story and wanting to puke. For some reason I thought people would be mean or simply wouldn’t read it. I was wrong. Getting over the anxiety of hitting publish has given me the courage to not only push through the 52 stories but start trying my hand at poetry and photography. It lead me to open mic poetry nights where I stood before a room full of people and read my words. I still have anxiety, but it’s far easier to push it away now. The more I do it, the more I realize I can.
*The stats. I couldn’t do a recap without including numbers/stats. This is kind of crazy for me, but here we go:
- 52 short stories=151,439 words
- 51 poems=8,623 words
- 2021: 1,718 views, 2 comments, 0 likes, and 1,200 followers
- 2022: 45,325 views, 5,530 comments, 22,400 likes, and 3,895 followers
- Most popular poem: If you…
- Most popular personal essay: The Car Wash
- Most popular short story: The Family Tree
- While I can’t pick a favorite story, these are my top five:
Where do I go from here?
It’s Saturday and I’m publishing this recap in place of a short story. It feels weird. Part of me wants to continue doing the exact same thing—photo essay on Monday, poem on Wednesdays, and short story on Saturdays. However, I have other goals and I need time to pursue them.
My word for the year is balance. I plan on still publishing three times a week here, but it could be any number of things. It could be a short story, a poem, a photograph, a personal essay, a book review, or maybe even a peek at one of the novels I’ve got in the works. I need to work on getting my physical body into shape and continue to grow my writing skills. I need to find a better balance in all things.
I’m not going away, but I do need to say goodbye to my 52-week challenge.
Before I close, I need to thank a few people.
My family. My husband reads every single story before I hit publish. He gives me feedback, protects my writing time, and brings me cups of coffee on the weekends. My daughter listens to me talk out every story idea and sometimes gives me the direction I need. My son bursts into my room to bring me levity and remind me it’s time to eat (or rather, it’s time to feed him). I’m so lucky to have a family who loves and supports me in doing this crazy writing thing.
Anna. We came up with this project together and I loved the first 25 weeks we wrote together. You are an incredibly important person to me and a wildly talented writer and artist. You are the first person I call when I need to talk about something and you always know the exact right thing to say. You already know this, but I’m your biggest fan and I look forward to what you create in 2023. loscotoff.com
Angelica. You know I’ve loved you since you were born. It’s been wonderful getting to know the adult version of you and writing alongside you since week 21. That means we wrote for 31 weeks together—cheering each other on and commiserating when the prompt just didn’t lead us in a good direction. I’m so happy to have been on this journey with you and to see you thrive. I can’t wait to hold your first published novel in my hands. reecewriting.wordpress.com
To everyone who supports me in big and small ways, thank you! I’m grateful for your love and support. I couldn’t have done it without you.
My 52-Week Challenge Journey
- What is the 52-week challenge?
- Week 1: The Heart and the Stone
- Week 2: The Biggest Little Gift
- Week 3: It Bearly Fits
- Week 4: The Claire in Clarity
- Week 5: The Family Tree
- Week 6: Through the Glass Windshield
- Week 7: The Final Goodbye
- Week 8: Sunset, Sunrise
- Week 9: Returning Home
- Week 10: The Water
- Week 11: Aw, Phooey!
- Week 12: Meeting Time
- Week 13: The Old Man
- Week 14: Dani and the Queen
- Week 15: The Golden Muse
- Week 16: Honeymoon Treasure Hunt
- Week 17: The Red-Haired Beauty
- Week 18: Playing Games
- Week 19: One Thing
- Week 20: The Child
- Week 21: The Carrot
- Week 22: Apple Stars
- Week 23: Something in the Water
- Week 24: Midnight Wedding Vows
- Week 25: Chocolate Kisses
- Week 26: The Island
- Week 27: Take Me By the Hand
- Week 28: When the Snow Falls
- Week 29: Stitches in the Woods
- Week 30: The Peacock Effect
- Week 31: New Experiences
- Week 32: Blood Moon Messenger
- Week 33: The Masterpiece
- Week 34: The Blackberry Quest
- Week 35: The Broken Shell
- Week 36: The Octopus in the Room
- Week 37: With a Touch of the Tapestry
- Week 38: Meet Me at the Elephant Ears
- Week 39: The Wheels on the Bus
- Week 40: Room 313
- Week 41: The Cornfield
- Week 42: Afraid of the Dark
- Week 43: The Abandoned Church
- Week 44: Let’s Go to the Ocean
- Week 45: A Night at the Carnival
- Week 46: Late Night Visitor
- Week 47: Chalky Hands
- Week 48: Under the Sign
- Week 49: Full Moon Harvest
- Week 50: Emerald Shoes
- Week 51: Christmas Eve in the Graveyard
- Week 52: Rainy Day Recruit