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?
- This isn’t about producing a polished essay. This is about surrendering to process. This is for you, no one else.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s do this, fam!