52 Weeks: My Year of Becoming a Writer

“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 breecedigitalservices@gmail.com. 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:

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

Poetry: Am I Cool Enough to Play in the Poet’s Sandbox?

Poetry has wriggled itself inside me, leaving me pondering words and feelings for hours. I wish I’d not stopped writing so I’d be further along and far more skilled at expressing myself and seeing metaphors and abstractions. My poetry class has been a rough back and forth. Sometimes I feel excited and joyful, and other times I’m filled with crippling self-doubt.

I have a lot of work to do.

This week we did our own version of two poems, which play off of each other.

The first is “We Real Cool” by Gwendolyn Brooks. We were to write a version of this poem as a writer at Comic-Con. I’m fairly certain I’m the only person in my class who has never been, but I imagined myself there. The first thing that came to mind was feeling like I don’t belong—a sense I’m not creative or real enough. I followed the exact format of the poem and found when others shared their interpretations they were far less rigid in their thinking—something for me to ponder moving forward.

For our second poem, we looked at “The Golden Shovel” by Terrance Hayes. He uses all the words of “We Real Cool” to create two more poems with different meanings. I found this exercise the most fun I’ve had so far. I loved breaking the words up and playing with how they sounded reading them out loud. This was also the most personal for me, exploring my feelings of being not worthy of being part of the creative world.

I hope you enjoy this third week of poetry. As always, any and all feedback is greatly appreciated.


Wordy Ones
Lost at Comic-Con

Too much I see
This bunch. See

The fake. See
Me take. See

Words real. See
Me feel. See

It all. See
Me fall.


Lost in Wordy World

Part I

Audaciously ungraciously stumbling too
drunk with unresolved dreams much
too much to be with, play with, cool kids. I
pretend, extend, and reach with all to see

if real me is enough. Naive and candied, honeyed this
world of wordy geniuses, the authentic bunch
eludes timeworn plain-Jane me, blinking un see

n. Hidden within shadows, turning, twisting off the
path traveled, into deep waters where fabulous fake
ery lives within the pulsing, pushing. Arms paddle to see/

sea creatures within writhing, writing to unearth a me.
Screeching too late, too late, haunted—take
deeper voyage under, over, pen on paper to see

k truths with excavated shoveled sand. Words uncover wily words
writhing words, piled upward and upright toward some real
ness. Will I, won’t I, the dance of solitary solidarity see

ing where words take, two pigeon-toed left feet, lead/lean on me.
Bounded, tethered by urgent hoping, desperation—finally feel
and reel and real, to uncover the sea and seethe and see.

Kindness, ambition married with martyr me, it
wars, bloodied knives out, within my curving all-rounded
frame. It’s mothering outward me versus internal me see

ing vast emptiness hidden in wordy distant worlds. The me
to be, to stumble, slipping on words with care, for I may fatally fall.

Part II

Writers write words too
big inside to ignore, much
ruckus, boisterous blabbering. But I
hear the calling whippoorwills, see

the creaking willows in this
hollow by the sea. I fond a bunch
of cryptic messages, bottles see

n bobbing up and down the
waves to me, for me. Not fake
pain, no, far too real. See

the version, vision of me
you see, isn’t to take,
no, it isn’t for you to see

at all. With my words/
weapons I become more real
ly me. Each breath, see

words flow, float from me
—pen on paper, the feel
of all or nothing, see

me give and give, it
feels like not enough. All
I am and all I see—

collections of words in me.
Don’t look away or I’ll fall.