At the end of 2015, inspired by fellow writer friend Sarah Dohrman, I decided to challenge myself to write a personal essay a week in 2016. Why?

I wanted to confront my own ego and this perfectionism thing I have that’s been self-sabotage for so long. I did this for me. To push myself. To surrender to mystery. To write and reflect on my life more publicly. I just posted essay 52 last night.

Some essays came out of me like waterfalls, easy and quick. Some didn’t. They were like pulling hair and pummeling. I walked out of them feeling battered, but I never regretted writing them. I’m convinced that the only way out is in.

I can say that this challenge has fed my work in so many ways. The weekly essays have helped me chronicle the process of writing my memoir, A Dim Capacity for Wings, and have helped me process the emotions that have come up. I’ve learned how to surrender and that is so necessary for this writing life. I opened myself up to stories that I never dared write or that I’d written over and over, and demanded a new perspective, new insight, new energy. And the challenge made me write when I didn’t feel like writing. Inspiration is great but you can’t always wait for it to come knocking. Sometimes you have to grab it and go. Sometimes you have to be your own inspiration…

Over the past few weeks I’ve been mulling over continuing the challenge in 2017. My bruja sister Lizz Huerta (a fierce writer in her own right) encouraged me to invite people to take on the challenge with me. I thought, “Hey, why the hell not?” So I posted it on my FB a few minutes ago and people have responded with enthusiasm and fear and hope. Who knew?

I had a writer reach out to me a few weeks ago to ask why I did it and if I thought about publishing the essays in lit mags, etc. I told her, no. That I did this for me, and I’m so glad I did. Yes, some of the essays have been picked up by lit mags. I’ve gained thousands of followers. People have reached out privately to thank me. I even had someone stalk me and flip out. I still don’t know why but that’s not my shit to carry so that’s okay too. I deleted her messages without reading them. I’m not here for that. Again, I’m doing this for me, no one else. Still, apparently this has inspired people and pushed people to write, and that’s a wonderful development…so I’m inviting people to take on the challenge with me in 2017. Let’s hold one another accountable, shall we?

What are the rules?

  1. This isn’t about producing a polished essay. This is about surrendering to process. This is for you, no one else.
  2. There is no word limit. It can be as short or as long as you like. Just try to dig into the stories. Why is this coming up? What is it you’re not saying? What is it you want to say? Why? Dig!
  3. Create a blog if you don’t already have one (there are tons of options including wordpress.com, blogger.com, etc.) and post the weekly essay on your blog. You can make it public or you can keep it private. That’s really up to you. The point is to write. If you decide to make the essay public, please post it on the #52essays2017 FB page, and don’t forget to tag the essay with the hashtag: #52essays2017.
  4. You have to post an essay a week, which isn’t easy. I have missed a week here or there but posted it later, usually not past the following Monday. If you miss a week, okay. Don’t beat yourself up. Just try. Push. Write. Then post it. 

I think that’s it for now but I reserve the right to add rules as we go, but only to ease or put some order to the process. The point is to write. Let the stories come and write them down. Vamos!

If you’re in and want to correspond about it, email me at writingourlivesworkshop@gmail.com. Let’s do this, fam!


  1. I’m considering!! But I have a question. do you differentiate between an essay and a blog post since you publish them on your blog? And how would you distinguish the two?

    • There have been tons of articles about the difference between blogging and essaying. I write personal essays that I post on my blog. I do not consider myself a blogger. I am a writer of creative nonfiction which includes personal essay and memoir writing. I can post this on my blog and it still be considered such.

      • That’s so interesting. I consider myself both a longtime blogger AND an essayist. Do you think blogging has a “lower status” or that you use a different part of your brain? I feel like some pieces that I write feel more like blog posts and others feel more like essays of creative nonfiction. Does it have to do with level of intention/revision? Is it possible to write a spontaneous essay? I’m just asking myself all of these questions. Also, what’s the difference between “posting an essay on a blog” and “blogging?”

      • So your advice is dive headfirst into the unknown and just do it! 🙂
        Funny you know, because for physical things I’d be all over that…personal and writing scares me; it’s one of the reasons I don’t perform poetry often no matter how I love it

  2. I’m in. And already I’m finding myself scared shitless not for fear of being judged but just being aware of the stuff inside that I haven’t let myself explore. Which is why I’m in. I have only one question: What’s my deadline? What day of the week does it need to go up by?

    • Hello MC. This challenge is for you. You decide that day you post. As long as you have an essay up per week, you’re good. Don’t forget to join the FB group. It’s great for support, accountability and connecting with folks. Good luck and mucho amor! ~V

  3. I’ve currently got three blogs on the go: one professional (for my life coaching business) and one ficion-writing collaboration and, as a result, my original personal blog has got a tad lost and become a bit bitty. I do book reviews and blog about reading competitions, but have struggled with developing what I thought would be regular opinion pieces. But this personal essay challenge chimes. I know it does, because I have that feeling in the pit of my stomach. So, I’m in too, although it won’t be my wordpress account which will host this!

  4. […] #52essays2017 – One personal essay each week.  NaBloPoMo was an interesting experiment in sticking to a writing structure.  A post a day was WAY much for me, because I like to futz with words and get them just right.  Pumping out content so quickly means quality suffers.  I’d rather write one great post a week than seven mediocre ones. […]

  5. I’m in!!! This challenge scares! There is the commitment to write regularly, which I need and want! And the prospect of digging deep. It scares me. But I know that I need to do that

  6. […] To that end, this post is the first of what I intend to be weekly short essays here in 2017. I won’t promise that they’ll all be polished, because my aim will be to develop consistency and courage in my writing by committing to publishing my words here each week without allowing myself time to over-think or over-edit. I’m inspired to do this by Vanessa Martir, a writer whose blog I first began following because I identify with how she describes her experience of being unmothered. I read a good number of the weekly essays Vanessa posted last year, and I’m psyched to participate this year in her #52essays2017 challenge. […]

  7. This morning, when I nestled my mug of coffee in my hands, enjoying the coolness in the air and running the day’s must-do chores along with work commitments in my head, I thought, I should also make it a point to journal in my diary, as I used to. When I received Laura’s newsletter, I whooped with joy. I am looking forward to joining you, and will be writing on one of my blogs. ♥ Thank you for the inspiration and motivation.

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