How’s the Writing Going? 

I’m sitting at my favorite coffee shop with avocado toast and an oat milk latte. Low-fi beats play in my rose gold headphones and I’m lost in the art of storytelling. People rush around me, blurring on the edge of my vision, but I’ve fallen into the words and barely register the ticking of the clock or the feel of my body in the chair.

It feels like magic. 

I’m an archaeologist uncovering the bones of an ancient beast buried deep within myself. I’m a wizard casting a spell upon the page. I’m the heroine discovering the power to change the world was inside me the whole time.

I’m a writer.

I’ve had this realization before, but something this time feels different. It’s not simply an identity adopted, but a feeling deep inside my bones I’m doing the thing I’m supposed to be doing.

It feels a lot like purpose.

Thank you 52-week writing challenge.

When my writing partner Anna and I sat down late last year and envisioned the challenge, we were seeking more accountability. We wanted to continue the momentum we’d experienced doing NaNoWriMo—harnessing our creative energy more consistently. We figured the more we wrote, the more energy we’d have to work on our manuscripts and the closer we’d be to following our dreams of being published.

Twelve weeks in is the perfect time to reflect on what I’ve learned so far:

  • I’ve started to see a clear pattern in the way I approach a story idea. I read the prompt over and over until a character begins to speak to me. I journal each morning, playing with possible story ideas for the character and feeling them out with many starts and stops. When I hit on the story it feels like something clicks and then, and only then, can I begin to write. If I start before that moment it will be rambling and I’ll have to start over.
  • I need the accountability of writing on deadline. My week has a definite rhythm now and it revolves around publishing on my blog and my photography. It feels comfortable and is getting easier. The first few weeks I waited until the last minute to begin and it resulted in a lot of late nights. Now, I publish on Saturday, rest on Sunday, and begin planning and thinking of the next story on Monday.
  • I find story ideas and photo opportunities everywhere. I sit still and feel the energy of the words inside me. I craft sentences in the shower, while I’m driving, and when I’m folding laundry. It feels like managed chaos—the energy has a place to go.
  • I’m making my writing a priority. I used to “try and write” around my schedule. I’d let things get in the way all the time, often seeking and finding ways to sabotage my writing time by doing things for others, cleaning my house, or playing games on my phone. I felt like I wasn’t a “real writer” and therefore I couldn’t take the time away from my family or my friends for a “hobby.” These short stories have shifted that. I write now because I must, and it is a priority.
  • My anxiety has lessened. The beauty of the weekly challenge is you have to post on a deadline so there isn’t time to short-circuit and collapse under the weight of self-doubt. I don’t have time to think too much about if what I’m writing is “good” or “good enough.” Time chases me and doesn’t allow me the space to think too long and hard about any of it. I can’t let Anna down. I can’t let myself down. I have to keep going.
  • It’s completely reframed the way I look at writing and my goals for the future. While I don’t have the time I thought I would for working on my manuscripts, I feel my writing style shifting and my skills improving with each short story. It feels like these words are necessary to keep growing my skills so when I return to my manuscripts it will be with fresh eyes and new skills. I still dream of being a published author, but I’m aware of the fact I’m not ready yet. I have more work to do.
  • I’m investing in myself. I’ve grown my readership on my blog and I’ve signed up for writing classes and workshops. I paid extra to have the ads taken off my website. I’ve not been this committed in the past, and I’m excited to see where it’s going.

The overall feeling is one of potential and growth. I don’t know why this project feels important, but it does. I’m going to keep moving forward and trust this is leading somewhere.

I’d like to thank my writing partner Anna for constantly pushing me, inspiring me, and blowing me away with her artwork and incredibly beautiful writing. I’m so happy to be on this journey with her. It’s fun to see how different we both interpret the prompt and I’m looking forward to a huge party with her at the end of the year.

Also, thank you to everyone who likes or comments on my blog. I value each and every one of you. Your support feels like a warm blanket I can slip into when the negative self-talk becomes too loud. It’s encouraging and appreciated.

See you on Saturday with my take on a haunted house story.


Write with us

If you find yourself in a rut or could use a framework for your chaotic creativity, consider joining us on this journey. We’d love to have you! There’s no commitment, and you can start and stop whenever you like. You make the rules for yourself. The prompt for the next week is at the bottom of our stories each week. Let me know if you write one of the prompts and I’ll link to your blog.

My 52 Week Challenge Journey

Out with the old and in with the new, or something like that

I’ve struggled to find words to process the last few years.

We’ve collectively lived through something hard.

Impossibly hard.

I can’t write about the enormity of the experience, so I’ll take it to the personal micro-level.

I lost my grandmother to Covid. I didn’t get to say goodbye and we didn’t have a funeral for her.

My son had two terrible accidents. They were scary. I relive them daily and I hold him too close.

My daughter didn’t react well to social distancing. Her light dimmed so much I felt I might lose her.

Our family was together all the time, but somehow things got messy and convoluted. The undercurrent of fear kept us on edge, too internal, and we became strange to each other.

I want to move forward and say 2022 is the year it all changes, but it feels like rebuilding a puzzle without knowing the picture, and some of the pieces could be missing. It’s an uneasy feeling.

Yet, I’m going to try anyway.

Trying for me looks like refocusing on daily journaling, the short story challenge, and recommitting to posting to this blog. I’m moving my body and cooking dinner. I’m taking vitamins and sticking to a budget. I cleaned my closets. I’m making plans with friends.

These are important steps forward, creating new focus and new habits.

But if I learned anything from watching the Muppet Christmas Carol on repeat all December, we have to live in the past, present, and the future.

Not everything during the last two years was awful.

The dark night sky had some glittery stars, and they were incredibly beautiful.

Can I show you?

There was time to watch the sunrise and the sunset.

We drew this chalk mural for our neighbors to see as they walked by our house. We also hung hearts and paper cranes in our front window. It gave us a purpose and made us feel more connected to the outside world.

There was more time to spend outdoors, and we hiked a lot.

My sweet nephew got in on the hiking, too. Silly faces were a requirement.

We did an online challenge of trying to copy famous paintings. I think we nailed it.

We snuck away to a beach house during the lockdown, and took a walk on the empty beach. It began to rain, and we saw starfish everywhere. We lost count at 100.

I grew my first ever pumpkin, and then…

I became queen of the pumpkins.

I did some of my daughter’s school work with her and drew this beauty.

We did numerous photo shoots with Puff the Magic Hamster, who was a wonderful sport about it.

We had our own May Day, and it’s my favorite picture of us.

My son got his first car,

and my daughter grew wings.

I got to take my nephew to his first rock concert and see him light up.

I got my first tattoo, a matching wave with my best friend.

I captured this moment at the aquarium.

When I could hug my mother again, it was everything.

And when it was safe, this group got together and my heart was full.


My kids tease me because I take a lot of pictures, but I’m grateful. Looking through these memories, and there were a lot more, it helps me remember the last two years have been hard, yes, but also filled with tiny moments of beauty and joy.

Can you tell me some of yours?

 

Summertime madness

The theme was people making 180-degree turns in their lives and I was completely taken with this particular story about the author of “The Education of Little Tree.” I was vaguely aware that I was no longer in my car and that I was walking into the grocery store.

I’ve never left headphones on in public, but my time to listen is so limited that I decide to shop and indulge in “This American Life” at the same time. I pull out my grocery list and half shop, half listen. I shuffle around the store with my head down, not making eye contact, grabbing what I need.

At some point I look up to see a teenage boy doing the same thing.

Then I start looking around.

The store is really crowded. The aisles are jammed with carts and people. United in our efforts to get food, yet so separate and isolated.

Our own little islands.

There is a line at the registers. I pick the shortest and file in. A mom in front of me is loading her food onto the counter as her little boy, maybe 2, starts wailing and thrashing on the floor.

Taking off my headphones, I try to get his attention. His eyes are shut tight in the way little ones get when they are truly frustrated and upset.

“Moooommmmyyyy” he is wailing. “Mooommmmmmmm!”

She doesn’t look down. I recognize that look on her face. She is just trying to get through the day.

The boy finally looks my way and I smile as big as I can.

“Hi,” I whisper. “Are you OK?”

He blinks at me from behind his moms’ legs and stops crying. He clearly is not sure what to make of me.

“I’m so done with this store too,” I say.

He blinks again.

“It’s too loud in here, huh? Good thing you’re almost done.”

This time he smiles a little and then moves more behind his mom.

They finish paying and his mom lifts him into the cart. He gives me a little wave as they disappear out the door.

“Hi,” I say to the cashier.

She looks flustered. The lines are long and it has clearly been a tough morning.

“Crazy today, huh?” I say.

“Yep,” she replies without looking up.

I notice how beautiful her hair is and how a few little curls have escaped and circle around her face. A bright blue star tattoo with an outline of red is on her collarbone, just barely visible.

“Beautiful tattoo,” I say.

She stops moving and looks at me for the first time.

“Thanks, it’s in remembrance of my father who died of cancer last year,” she says with a big smile. “He had one just like it.”

She continues to scan my groceries and we chat a bit more. The barrier between us falls a little and it makes me happy.

“Have a great day,” she says as I walk away.

“You too. Thanks for helping me today.”

***

This is the third week of summer and the first chance I’ve had to sit and write.

Waves of emotions, memories and movement are sweeping me forward each day.

Unorganized and floundering, I’m often in survival mode.

I’m feeling so much responsibility and pressure to provide experiences and joy for my children.

I’m missing it.

I’m not taking the moments to reflect.

There is no space to breathe.

My girl is seven now and she is swimming underwater.

My boy is devouring books and experiencing the frustration of learning an instrument.

My summer daughter is here and she’s schooling me on all things teen girls love, including reading and seeing “A Fault in Our Stars.”

It’s all so much and it’s just beginning.

We have lots on the horizon; camping, hiking, day trips, rafting and fun with friends.

My tendency is to always be looking forward and planning or looking inward and analyzing.

Yet, the schedule and rhythm I planned is not working and I’m forgetting things. I’ve let people down and I’ve been feeding my kids crap.

“Live in the moment.”

I’ve always hated that phrase because it’s so elusive to me. Children can do this because they are not responsible. They don’t have to figure in things like nutrition, sleep and finances. They can simply move from one experience to another.

I can’t.

The madness of summer is here and it’s time I surrender if I plan to survive.

Summer will continue to move forward. I can either let go and enjoy the ride, or stay stuck in regret and chaos.

The power is in my hands.

Casting stones with third graders

rockAs they filed passed her, she grabbed a smooth stone from the basket and placed it into their waiting hands. In silence they accepted the stone and lined up outside the classroom.

For the next 20 minutes or so they walked in complete silence. Some clutched the stone toward their chest. Others tossed it in the air occasionally letting it fall to the ground. All were silent.

They followed their teacher as she led them off the school campus, across the street, through the neighborhood to a well-worn path that cut down to the river.

Forming a line along the river’s edge, the children watched their teacher and mimicked her movements. She held the stone out in front of her with both hands. She closed her eyes. When she opened them she threw the stone out into the river and watched the ripple cascade out from where it fell. Recognizing their cue, all the children started tossing in their stones. They stood quietly watching where they fell.

Stepping back from the river they formed a circle.

“Would anyone like to share what they were thinking about?”

Hands raised very quickly.

“I was thinking how I need to be nicer to my brother.”

“I want to do more things for my dog.”

“I want to work on my patience.”

“I think I can listen to my mom more.”

After sharing, the class sang several songs they had prepared for the day. The songs were filled with glee and hopefulness.

The walk back was anything but quiet. Lots of silliness, giggling and reflection.

“That was weird not talking, but cool.”

“I think we could have surprised a deer!”

“I’m proud of our class.”

Once in the classroom they had the traditional snack of apples and honey.

The teacher then presented the children with a new stone and said “Shanah Tovah,” which means “Good Year.”

The stones that were thrown in the river represented things to “cast off” from the previous year. The new stone represents the year to come.

This was my sons third grade class celebrating Rosh Hashanah. He attends a charter Waldorf school and it’s part of the third grade curriculum. They have been learning, through story and watercolor painting, the creation story. Rosh Hashanah is the “anniversary” of the creation of Adam and Eve.

These are 8- and 9-year-old children who walked in complete silence for almost 30 minutes AND participated in self-reflection.

Love this.

Next week the children will be building temporary structures called sukkah’s and the week will culminate in an evening feast for all the families.

Love this too.

I feel so lucky to have witnessed this beautiful example of reverence and reflection that is at the heart of Waldorf education.

I was even able to cast my own stone into the water. As I watched it sink to the bottom I tried to let all my pain, anger and sadness sink with it.

I’m doing work, my friends. I am starting to feel hope. Thanks for all the kind words and hugs. They have not gone unnoticed or unappreciated.

Shanah Tovah.