Personal Essay #47

While I have considered myself a writer for most of my life, it’s only been in this last year that I have really made lifestyle changes to not only reflect that but to ensure it. It’s like anything else in life, if you see it every day, you don’t notice the gradual changes. It’s only when you step back and look at the timeline of things that you actually notice a change. The difference in my grandchildren as they move from infants to toddlers is a perfect example. I don’t think about it much until I see a photo from a year ago when the changes are plainly visible.

A year ago, my writing photograph would have looked like this: I only wrote when inspired. I tried to write stories based on scenes I envisioned in my mind and sometimes they didn’t even go together. My writing was often jumbled and nonsensical. I had never written a genuine story with a beginning, middle, and an end (not once, yet I thought I could write a book somehow—laughing). I did not write every day but I did read nearly every day, which was about the only thing I was doing right. I wanted to be a real writer, a published author. My dream was only that, a dream that had never magically happened for me like I thought it should and like I thought it did for everyone else.

I’m not sure what book or article I read that truly inspired me to make a solid commitment or what changed within me that made the difference. But something did during the month of December 2016. First, I chose to meet a challenge called #52essays2017. That got me not only writing something regularly but got me to publish it publicly every week, getting my feet wet. The second change I made was joining I get up every morning and write my 750 words before I start my day and since I started doing this at the end of January, there have only been two days so far that I haven’t written at all this entire year. The third thing I did was to try to learn as much as I could about how to write a novel while at the same time I worked on improving my writing in general.

The next thing I changed was the process. I have always edited as I write, which I have been told is a writing fatality but I never heeded the warning. I decided this time I must. So, although I really struggled with it at first, I managed to keep my novel moving along, just writing, no editing. I started off with yellow legal pads and pencil. I still wasn’t really getting anywhere. My story lagged and I could not keep the momentum going for any length of time. I was beginning to lose hope, I kept extending my personal deadline. I never realized how hard actual writing could be. I also started getting up at 6 am to write, which anyone who knows me is next to impossible.

Midway through October when I realized I didn’t have a shot in hell of finishing on time, I threw up my hands and decided to try something that truly scared me. The National Novel Writing Month aka Nanowrimo. I almost chickened out of the pre-writing meetings with the regional chapter, but I swallowed my fear and stood up and did it all anyway. It was good that I did. I met some cool people, I learned a few new tricks, I gained some much-needed confidence and I plunged right in, not knowing how to swim. I had more information though than when I started and I hoped that would be enough. I also upgraded to using a pen, much faster.

At about the halfway or midpoint I faltered. I froze. My story froze. Fear caught me and wouldn’t let go. I hacked it out and after a couple of days was back on track. I am currently one week away from the finish line. I am a little above target but more on track in my soul than I ever have been in my whole life. Not sure what changed again, or how or even why. I just know that now I am “getting it” in a way I never have before. I feel like a floodgate opened but instead of it bowling me over its washing over me like beautiful music.

My story keeps moving as if on it’s own. Yet I put forth that effort every single damn day. It doesn’t feel difficult anymore though. It seems as natural as breathing. Yesterday I crossed off my 40k mark. I am still in awe. The best and the worst part of this whole thing is that I truly don’t know how my story will end. Since the general plan is a series, I feel that is okay because I have a general idea of how it needs to end. But so much of what I have written has surprised me that I am not sure how it will end exactly. So, for now, the best part is that I can’t wait to find out. What a difference a year can make when you add dedication, discipline, and determination into the mix. Finishing strong.




Personal Essay #46

I’m still here.

I’m still alive and still trying. The past few days have threatened to stop me and squash me in my tracks with anxiety. I don’t have time for anxiety or setbacks right now. I am in the middle of doing Nanowrimo and have a 50k word count to fulfill. (In case you don’t know, Nanowrimo is a writing contest done during the month of November. 50k words would be roughly equivalent to a 200-page paperback novel.) I am using the motivation of this contest to finish a book I have been trying to write for a decade. I’m both proud and embarrassed to say that I’ve never written this much in such a short period of time in all the years I’ve called myself a writer.

None of this comes easy for me. I struggle hard with fear of failure but eventually overcome it in due time. However, I am committed to finishing this latest version of my novel that I have been writing since June. In a matter of weeks, I’ve already tripled what I wrote in that 5 month period of time. I am not allowing myself any time to or giving myself the chance to edit it or make any major revisions. The only luxury I sometimes allow myself comes only after I write and only by making brief editing notes in the margin.

I have 12 days left to write and now that I have scaled some of the tallest structural parts of my novel and passed beyond the midpoint, I feel that these last 20k are completely attainable. I even have a backup plan for if I happen to get to the absolute end of the story before reaching my word count. I have plenty of areas where the story still needs further development. When I look at my previous days writing, certain parts of it tend to stick out at me and seem absolutely horrible, begging me to cut or edit them. That’s when I have to I remind myself, I can’t rework material that isn’t there and when I get stuck that I can’t edit words that don’t exist. I can only keep trying till I get it right.

This challenge has taught me a great many things. One of which is, no matter how much preparation you’ve done, there comes a time when prepared or not, you just have to dive in or you’ll never finish. I have learned that writing a book is way harder than I ever expected (and I am only on the first draft! No panicking.) but I love it. I love everything about it and I hope that love shows with each word on the page. This process has taught me that sometimes you have to give up other things to get stuff done (my reading time is suffering.). I have learned that you can’t wait for inspiration and you don’t have to. You truly can create your own. I have learned that I can always do more than I think I can, even when it feels impossible.

So, even if I don’t hit my mark every day, I have to be okay with that. I have to accept when I don’t succeed. I know it’s okay to keep trying harder till I get there. It might take me a bit longer but I will always get there as long as I keep trying and never give up. I’m still here. I’m still alive. I’m still trying, no matter how tough it feels, there is always hope to carry me even when my will doesn’t want to.

The only reason I look back is for the motivation of seeing how far I’ve already come because if I’m not trying I will never get anywhere.


Personal Essay #40

There have been many times in my life when I have been undeniably drawn to writing. These are times when an unspoken force pulls me in and I find myself fully caught up in the throes of inspiration. Those moments are rare and fleeting much like young love or infatuation and burn out just as quickly as they arrive. Leaving behind only partially finished, disorganized thoughts randomly but beautifully strewn together across numerous pages.

With that being said, I have not fully submersed myself into my creativity and the writing process with my current novel. I know that when or if I do, I could lose control and everything else in my life will go by the wayside. I feel as though I can’t-do that just yet. I am afraid of what will happen if I do and what will happen if I don’t. I guess part of me is scared that I won’t be able to do it all: the novel, job, relationship, just life in general. So, I do just enough to keep all the balls I’m juggling in the air and moving with as much precision and grace as I can muster.

At some point, I will have to let myself go deep into the story of my character. The key will be separating that creative process from the other parts of my life. I have to maintain the other aspects of my life and keep my responsibilities at the forefront even though it seems so limiting to me right now. Perhaps that is where my frustration is coming from, from feeling limited and hindered. (Although, ironically, that is also what my protagonist is feeling.) Maybe in some ways, I am deeper into the story than I realized. Perhaps I’m moving through my own frustrations the same way she has to while we both look for the right solutions.

My current overwhelming feeling is that I need to jump into the deep scary depths of my novel. Even though with this draft, I am crafting and creating more than I ever have before, I’m still allowing myself to take the time to learn what I can along the way. This entire experience exudes a special kind of magic, it feels like what I can only describe as love mixed with creation. It feels promising and hopeful like the sunshine after a hard rain. It feels long lasting like the mystical dog days of summer.

I am so grateful that the ideas and scenes are still flowing to me daily. I’m trying to piece them together— like one big puzzle. I started an idea book, in which I try to catch every idea as if they were elusive butterflies and I was a collector. Some of these ideas I know go into this first novel and some will fit in later on in the series. I’m enjoying the play of piecing them all together and matching up what fits. It is a fulfilling and taxing thing I am doing and I feel amateurish still. But I’m secretly hoping that feeling doesn’t go away anytime soon. Even though it is difficult to battle the doubts every single day, it is still such a beautiful thing to have a hope that’s filled with endless possibilities.



Personal Essay #34

It was my day off and I felt like doing some deep cleaning. I bravely looked in my bathroom closet that held various bottles with just enough shampoo, conditioner, or lotion to barely validate saving. Looking at how many there were and their various stages of fullness or emptiness, I had an epiphany. Not only do I struggle with finishing things, leaving them abandoned in their scarcity, I also hold on to what little is left while I keep trying new products looking for the perfect match, leaving partially used bottles in the closet to collect dust, shoving them further and further into the closet as I bury them with their replacements.

This epiphany also directly relates to my writing. Long ago I accepted the fact that I have a horrible track record with finishing things, even though I would like to do better. Perhaps, some things I’ve started, are just awful and have to be poured down the drain while I recycle what I can. Perhaps many of my stories will never be finished. Like an old shampoo, there might be enough of something good there to finish off, then again, maybe not.

So, I will. I will clean out the cabinets and the old folders and see what is salvageable and what is not. I will start over fresh. As of right now, I make a commitment to finish what I start from now on, completely, no excuses. Oh, I’m sure there will be times, where an idea, much like a bad shampoo, just sucks and I will have to throw them both out. But, as of right now, I am fully committed to finishing whatever I start and I won’t give up no matter how hard it gets.

Today, I am pushing the bottle of procrastination and doubt away. I am selecting my own thoughts and projects carefully and I am pouring my heart and soul into my work. I am deep cleaning the recesses and corners, diving deeper into the details of my thoughts and words. My work is currently at various stages of maturity and I struggle to find a balance. I try to use every good idea I have and draw the best of it out until the bottle is empty. The awaiting dust shows me where my attention needs to go next. I focus on uncovering my deepest ideas and thoughts for their own embellishment.

I’m finding that finishing things, especially writing things, is much like the satisfaction found when finished cleaning. The struggle to get it all just right leads to a brief fulfillment and I sigh with pride and relief at each finished piece. I bathe in the success of completion, ready to do it all over again.



Personal Essay #29

As a beginner at anything in this life, you must celebrate all your successes, no matter how small they seem. As you get better, more comfortable and you improve with practice and dedication, you won’t be able to see your own progress right away. When you eventually look back, a year or two or ten, you will see clearly how your path has carried you along and only then will you see for yourself how far you have come.

Over the last year, I have written well over 250,000 words in my quest to become an author. To date, not a word has been profitable and few have been publishable. But when I compare my work in the beginning to now, I can see that my dedication has paid off. My quality has improved in ways I never expected. My learning path has come in leaps and bounds, allowing my writing to expand, to go deeper or to touch on hidden truths.

Writing is one of the few things in life within my control. It is not just a form of expression but a creative, artistic and humbling process. It is a way for me to soothe my own soul— to unburden it— even to nourish it. Writing is not just part of my essence but a lifeline, no an umbilical cord!

Writing is where I find my voice. It is the only safe place for me to break down what I am feeling and get to the real core of things. Writing is where my realizations happen and where the magic happens, enchanting me further down my path. It is the garden of my personal and private growth. Writing is a place, a space and a time for me. Writing is where “I” happen.



Personal Essay #28

For the last two weeks, I have pretty much blown off the majority of my daily and weekly writing. I’ve still been writing my morning pages (on every day, but that’s it. I keep trying to sit down and write but within seconds or minutes, I find my way into a distraction, running off with some project or another, knowing I need to sit down and write. It doesn’t help any that it’s summertime and beautiful out. I am too easily distracted by the summer sun.

But today during my morning writing, I decided to explore why I wasn’t writing like I should be. Several things came up but the one that surprised me the most was the lingering effect of my last blog piece. This realization stopped me dead in my tracks. The topic of the piece was about my relationship with my mom and the negative ripples that it created throughout my life. It’s not an easy thing to accept that my mother hated me and how messed up her reasons were but I wrote the piece anyway. It was mostly healing for me but inadvertently hit a trigger. (A trigger here meaning something that brings buried feelings to the surface.)

In most situations, I can identify my triggers right away, and make corrections quite easily. This trigger wasn’t so painfully obvious, but its effect was just as strong. It was like a random bruise that just shows up out of nowhere. It wasn’t directly bothering me so I didn’t notice it right away. I just allowed the continuing distractions to keep from dealing with these feelings. It’s hard to accept that sometimes people often do terrible things for no reason at all.

The trigger ended up being directly related to the self-doubt and hopelessness that my mother instilled in me regarding my own creativity. She taught that creativity shouldn’t be indulged in, that it was a sign of mental instability, a whim, a fairy tale. There was no room for this kind of thinking in life. Creativity was considered a waste of time.

I wasn’t prepared for this and how it would throw a monkey wrench in my writing plans. But now, I am grateful for the lesson. It made me aware of some important things, such as taking care of myself by setting protective boundaries when working on sensitive personal issues. Another important thing I learned is the necessity of dealing with these issues that pop up from this kind of writing right away. If I am going to open the door I need to be prepared for whatever I let in. Once it’s in, it won’t be ignored. It won’t go away until I’ve done my part.

I am grateful to face this old misconception head-on. I do believe that living through my creativity is what is best for me and I have seen how it helps me to flourish personally. So, today I stand up and dust myself off from this misstep and promise myself to be aware and more cautious when stirring up my past.

Creative lesson learned.



Personal Essay #26

It’s the end of June and we are half way through the year already. To me, that also means that I am halfway through this writing challenge. It’s also been six months since I have been consistently writing every single day. The advice most prolific writers give is to write every day—that this is a necessary step in the process—like avid reading— their advice is that this must be done. Well, like so many other things in my life, I blew off good advice thinking it didn’t apply to me. That was ten years ago.

Since I began these changes, in return the change for me has been amazing and unexpected. I sleep better now than I have in years. I take better care of myself and make better decisions. Self-sabotage doesn’t rear it’s ugly head anymore. I feel more in control of my emotions and I usually get more done than last year at this same time.

When I first started this writing commitment, it was like anything new— it was shiny and exciting and I thought it would always feel fresh and engaging. But like all things (IE relationships, hobbies, etc.) the excitement wore off leaving behind something plain and dull looking in comparison. There were many days it was a struggle just to keep writing until I hit my 750 words for the day. Some days that was all I could do. It was almost painful to sit and write and there were times I wanted to quit.

But here’s the thing, my realization, my epiphany, if you don’t stick it out— especially when you are working with something viable, then you will never see what could happen. I choose to grow with my craft. I choose to learn all I can and to practice and try new things. While I know I still have a lot to learn, I have learned things I can’t put into words. I have learned that sometimes the only way to learn is to do.

I know I have become a better writer and a better person through this process. I know I am still learning. I am personally challenged by the learning I do and I love it. Now I am continually challenged by my own writing.

For example, with the novel I am writing, I recently made a geographical decision in the story and now there are a couple of chapters that will need to be revised to reflect this decision and at least one possibly two more chapters that will need to be written taking place previous to where I started in the story. Part of me desperately wants to rewrite that section immediately. However, I remembered two very important writing suggestions. 1) Is to never edit while writing (because you’ll rarely ever get to the end). 2) Is that you start writing in the middle of the story and you fight your way out.

So, I have adjusted my sails and for now, I simply wrote myself notes on what needs to be written and changed and once I have reached the end of the story, only then will I go back and fill in the beginning blanks. I honestly don’t think I would be able to do any of this without writing every day. Making this commitment to myself, to my novel and to publicly writing and posting a blog every week has changed my daily habits for the better.

Every time I write I learn more about myself.

Every time I write I chose to grow, to create and to live.