21-day Writing from the Core, 2014

photo of tiny seashells embedded in a rock crevice

Dear fellow writers,

You know how there’s that thing you can never write about? Maybe it’s family, maybe it’s sex, maybe it’s your body, maybe it’s race, maybe it’s those six years of your childhood. You know you need to find a way to tackle the subject: it’ll improve your writing, and might even improve your life. But every time you think about writing it, you find excuses. Or try as you might, you veer off-topic. Or you write pages and pages and pages, crying all the way, and then, upon rereading, you realize you were just circling the heart of the matter.

I’m doing an experiment that I think will cut through some of that circling. I haven’t done this before, so I don’t guarantee it will work, but it should get you writing. If you’re game to join me, I will send you 21 days of writing prompts specifically tailored to this difficult writing. The prompts will be free of charge, and I will not give your email address to anyone else, or add you to any other mailing lists.*

Here’s what will happen. You will receive your first prompt on Sunday, August 3 (California time, probably in the morning). This prompt may be a question, a word or two, or a theme. Each following day, for a total of 21 days, you’ll receive a new prompt. That’s all. Although you will be writing in fellowship with the other members of this challenge, this is a solo journey; there won’t be sharing or conversation (although you’re free to share on your own, say, on your blog or in other writing circles). It’s possible we may convene online on the last day, to discuss how it went. But for the 21 days you will write on your own and without feedback, and therefore with complete freedom — to face the limitations placed upon you by your own mind.

I suggest that for maximum depth of exploration, and the greatest possibility of breaking through your own mental blocks, you stick to a single topic (or closely related set of topics) for the entire 21-day period. That way, with each prompt, you’ll tackle this topic from a different angle. The prompts will be built with this in mind.

Please remember this timeless wisdom: just ’cause it’s free doesn’t mean you should take it. This challenge may not be for everyone, and I ask that you respect your time and mine by not signing up unless you really want to do it. I don’t get payment for doing this. I do it because it helps me write when I feel that others are writing alongside me. This challenge may be free, but it’s still a commitment, and I ask that you honor it as such.

Likewise, I must re-emphasize, this is a solo journey. If you’re writing about something deeply traumatic, perhaps the kind of topic for which trigger warnings were invented, please consider whether you’d prefer a writing group that offers more explicit support. This is meant to be an opportunity for self-challenge and growth and I would hate for anyone to get in over their head. I have no personal history with trauma and so I can’t even direct you to resources. Please, please, respect the power of your own writing, and only sign up for this challenge if you think it is the right thing for you.

That said:

In summary: 21 days of writing prompts, sent to your email, starting Sunday, August 3, 2014. Pick a difficult topic and prepare to delve into it. It will probably not be fun (if it is, you’ve picked too easy a topic). But it will (I hope) be good.

How to sign up:

  1. Send an email to lisa12 at gmail dot com with the subject line “21-day challenge.”
  2. The prompts will go to the email address you’re sending from, unless you specify otherwise.
  3. (optional) Tell me what difficult topic you plan to write about. I will keep this completely private; I’m only asking because I think it might help with your own accountability and focus if you explicitly articulate this topic. It may or may not also influence my prompts, if I know what people plan to write about.
  4. I will reply to your email to confirm that you are on the list. If you don’t receive confirmation within 48 hours of your email, leave a comment on this post and I’ll look into it.

That is all. Feel free to pass this on to friends. Thank you for the courage to write about the hard things. I look forward to writing with you.



*The only reason I would re-use your email, after the 21 days are over, is to notify you of future rounds of writing prompts. I’ve done these at least three times in the past and they’ve always been free, so this isn’t a marketing gimmick, it’s just a service to you (and also to me).