Many years ago, my grandmother bought me a subscription to Cricket Magazine. Her college roommate, Lucy Johnston Sypher, was featured frequently in the magazine and she thought it would be great for a kid who read as much as I did. I loved Cricket Magazine and devoured it cover-to-cover each month.
Six months later, I decided to enter their monthly poetry contest. I wrote an acrostic poem with the word “mountain” about the lovely mountains of New Mexico. I didn’t win. But writing became something I wanted to do – so I did it, often badly – for the next twenty years.
Then I got sober, and writing left me. The words simply vanished. It was agonizing.
Luckily, I had help: Rachel Simon, my first true writing mentor. As my brain began to heal from drug and alcohol abuse, Rachel guided me back to writing. Some of this was in a professional category – she and I were both event coordinators for a bookstore chain, and I had to write my event calendar each month, and she quite literally held my hand through the process – and some was simply because she believed in me (Rachel has an excellent book about writing as well). Never underestimate the power of someone you admire believing in you.
Today writing comes easily to me. Because I earn my living writing, much of what I write isn’t particularly creative, but I put words on paper (metaphorically, of course, it’s all digital these days) each and every day. I am blessed to be living as a writer forty years after I wrote that first poem.
One of the things Rachel told me early on has stuck with me. “In order to really call yourself a writer,” she said, “you need to write at least seven hours a week.” Today I write more like 25 hours a week, but that an-hour-a-day idea helped me focus as I grew as a writer. For over a decade this blog has provided my place to spend that hour of writing creatively, and I’m proud of the writing I’ve done here.
After some time, I wanted to share the gift Rachel gave me. At a couple of years sober, I began teaching creative writing to women living in long-term drug and alcohol rehabs. The time I spent with those women was such a gift! For myriad reasons, writing was hard for them. For some it was because they felt their education wasn’t complete, others believe they were stupid, and a few had undiagnosed learning issues. Spending weeks helping them find the capacity to trust themselves enough to write creatively was powerfully rewarding. I still have a folder of their amazing writing that I often refer to for inspiration.
Recently, the good folks at Lift asked me if I’d like to do that sort of work again, and I thought once more of Rachel. Last year she came out to see me give a presentation and she told me again how gifted she thought I was, and how she can’t wait for me to publish my book (the book that is still in process, alas). I eagerly agree to partner with Lift to create a month-long writing challenge that will start (very soon) on September 1st.
Called “500 Words Every Day” (#500WED is the hashtag), the challenge itself is free (as is registering at Lift). Each day I’ll share a writing prompt, and participants will be asked to write 500 words on that prompt (or anything else they’d like to write about). The goal isn’t to complete a novel or any particular project (unless you’d like it to be), but to fall in love with writing. To trust yourself, and to believe in yourself as a writer. The project will become available on September 1st, so go quickly.
If you’d like, you can also sign up for personalized coaching from me. I’ll be able to digitally hold your hand as you embark on this project, much like Rachel held mine back in 1996.
I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to work with other writers again. Feel free to email me if you have any questions!