A year ago, I turned 50. A few days before that, I saw a quote on Twitter attributed to Ray Bradbury, the author of Fahrenheit 451. He said, “Write a short story every week for a year. It’s not possible to write 52 bad stories in a row.”
I didn’t see myself as someone who gave herself added challenges, but without thinking much about it, I wrote essay №1 about turning 50 and challenging myself to 50 essays in a year. A year went by and here it is, essay №50.
Writing 50 essays taught me some things. I learned I actually am someone who gives herself challenges. When I was in my mom’s pool with my son, Sebastian, he challenged me to swim the entire length without breathing. I did it, then challenged myself to swim up and back. Around Mother’s Day, I was hired by The National Council of Jewish Women to write and tell the story of the woman who founded the organization 125 years ago. My mom said, “If you’re impersonating Hannah G. Solomon, you know your story.” So, I challenged myself to tell the story without reading it. And sometime, midyear, I remembered that since I was a kid, I’d challenged myself to run a marathon when I turned 50.
I started training for the Miami Marathon, 13 weeks out, which wasn’t enough time. When I shredded my calf muscle, I learned that I have too much confidence in myself physically for my own good, which I already sort of knew. In high school I ran myself into the ground when I wasn’t winning a cross-country race. I woke up in the hospital. The first thing I asked was, “Did I win?”
At week 32, I asked myself why I took on this essay challenge. Sure, I wanted to get better and faster at writing, but something else was going on. I’d finished a book and spent three years revising it with an agent. She sent it out to 12 publishers and it got rejected. Then my agent lost confidence in my book. I sent it out 26 more times. All rejections.
I started this challenge because I needed to do something else for a while. I needed to succeed at something.
There were many weeks I thought for sure I had nothing to say. And there were many weeks I wanted to quit. But I learned to trust the process. I believe in writing to a prompt, which I’ve been doing since I first started taking memoir classes at 28 with Terrie Silverman. I’ve been writing to prompts…