Accepting the Challenge #SOL21 1/31

I woke up early to write today but it is no longer early: it is almost time to go. Rather than write first thing, as I had promised myself, I turned on the oven to make my son’s breakfast, turned on the kettle to make myself tea. I fed the cats and checked my email. I read some other slices – to get inspiration, I told myself – and commented. I played a word game in the NYTimes. I dithered.

I love writing but I often struggle to start – and what writer doesn’t? Ideas fill my head at all the moments when I’m not able to write them down. I shape the phrases, find the insights, promise to remember, to catch them…. and then I don’t. Now I’ve committed myself to the 2021 Slice of Life challenge, to writing every day, at a time when I already barely have time to breathe. I sit here, staring at my screen, thinking what have I done?

But I know what I have done: I have committed to try. I have committed to sharing (my OLW for the month is, in fact, publish). I have committed to bringing my imperfect self to the page as often as I can. Truth be told, I am often afraid to show the world my imperfect self – even if the world is just a few readers of this blog. And yet, I will do it.

Last week my students handed in their first major assignment, a personal essay. Because of the structure of the pandemic school year, they wrote their essays and handed them in after seeing me in person, at most, five times. They trusted me with their stories; I really gave them no choice since it was an assignment. Some of the essays are unfinished (Can you help? is written at the top of one, This story is important but it’s hard for me to write about & I don’t know how to end.) but they are written, attempted, shared. This amazes me year after year.

I, of course, have much more practice at writing than my students do. I’ve practiced the tricks to getting something out of my head onto the page and into the world nearly every week for a few years now. This challenge helps me remember the fun and the fear that comes with writing: the community, the chaos, the commitment that is writing. This is why I signed up. This is why I’m here.

For this month I will trust you, reader, with my stories and my imperfect self. Together, we will see what happens. Welcome. Welcome again.

Thanks to https://twowritingteachers.org for hosting this challenge

53 thoughts on “Accepting the Challenge #SOL21 1/31

  1. I am with you in so many ways. The morning routine that somehow sucks out all the time you had planned. I had that same plan the morning. Our students are quite brave when they hand over their writing. to us, And yet we fear sharing ourselves as “experienced” writers. I always relearning the lesson of being vulnerable.
    Julieanne

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    1. This blog has been such a learning space for me in terms of making myself vulnerable – it’s one of the biggest things I now bring into my classroom when I teach writing.

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  2. Welcome back. I too, am talking that illogical plunge. As we were walking the dog this morning, my wife said, “So, I heard you say you were writing about the ice cream. Does that mean you’re doing the challenge again?” “Yup.”
    “Really?!” she replied. “Yeah. That wasn’t the reaction I was hoping for.” “Well, it’s just that it’s so hard, and you’re already spread so thin.” “Yeah, well, the challenge is actually sort of a gift to me. I feel really good when I finish a piece and when I finish the marathon.” “Well, in that case, go for it!”
    I like your word for the month. It’s practical, but leads to the result that’s much more than practical. It’s scary, but a good scary. Good luck with all of your publications.

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    1. My husband is somewhere between appalled and resigned. I am barely keeping my head above water some weeks, so he’s probably right, but this really is a gift to myself. Thank goodness for supportive spouses! (And, in case you’re wondering, I’m only publishing here – who on earth has time for more than that!?)

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  3. I read so much of myself in this post today and have read many other slices that share the sentiment of letting go, of imperfection. In your case, whether you struggle or not, your writing shines and inspires me.
    “This challenge helps me remember the fun and the fear that comes with writing: the community, the chaos, the commitment that is writing. This is why I signed up. This is why I’m here.”
    In my case, you are why I am here; thank you.

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  4. “For this month I will trust you, reader, with my stories and my imperfect self. Together, we will see what happens.” Committing to writing every day in a great big community of writers, makes us imperfectly perfect. Looking forward to writing this month too!

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  5. I always remind myself and that there is no right or wrong when it comes to writing — I will now add that bringing my imperfect self to the page is real, raw, and honest — what could be better than that! I’m glad you’re here, Amanda!

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  6. I love the truth of your words here on trust – especially with students’ writing – and on the imperfect self. I believe the imperfections are exactly why we want to read other people’s writing… there is comfort, freedom, and encouragement to be found in it. Love the word “dither” – hmmm, “d” is coming up here quickly for me in my new approach to the Challenge! I also love your OLW, “publish” – yes, do keep on, because we all need your wit and warmth so much.

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  7. One of the many reasons why I participate in this challenge is because of the trust that is developed among bloggers. It is hard to put our personal stories out there, and it reminds me of what my students face with their own writing. There are just so many benefits to this challenge, so let’s see what happens!

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    1. Exactly – writing together, sharing our vulnerabilities and especially learning to hit publish even when it’s not perfect – this is what I’m here for. Here we go!

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  8. It’s always a challenge to jump into the SOLC. I love this line in your story, “the fun and the fear that comes with writing”, as it rings true for me. I love writing but often struggle with these two-fun and fear. I’m striving for more fun than fear this year. 🙂

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  9. Amanda, I am happy that you will trust us the reader with your stories and imperfect self. Your sharing of this will help many add their voice to yours for as a community we become one when we open ourselves up to others.

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  10. I am glad you see this as gift. I look forward to your posts! It’s a busy time, but knowing I am going to be writing every day helps me stay in the moment – not worrying about what is past, not anticipating what is next, but noticing what is happening now.

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    1. Noticing the now really is the key, isn’t it? That’s my goal for the month: notice it & write. And hey, if we can walk for almost a year, surely we can write for a month, right?

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  11. “I dithered.” This is the story of my life. 🙂 Your writing has such a lyrical quality to it, Amanda. It is a joy to read. I look forward to following your perfectly imperfect days.

    Jen

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    1. Oh, “lyrical” – that’s such a wonderful compliment. Here’s to days of lyricism and days of whatever hits the page. I look forward to it all – well, sort of. 🙂

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  12. I’m so glad to see you here, Amanda, and can relate to so much of what you’ve written! When I finally signed up for the challenge this year, after a lot of hemming and hawing (aka dithering), I thought, “Well, I’ll try.” I like how you put it better “committed to try.” I’m looking forward to reading your words through this month. Happy Writing!

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  13. We’re all imperfect writers together, and I think you know why you do this: The reason is in those essays, those imperfect student writers who ask, “Can you help?” Why, yes you can. Yes, we can.

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  14. So happy to see you are back, Amanda! Your writing makes me so happy. So many wonderful lines – “the fun and the fear that comes with the writing” – sooooo true. I also really appreciate the comparison you make between our writing (as adults) and your students’ writing. If they can do it – we can. Indeed.

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  15. Amanda! You are an inspiration 🙂 and I am happy you are nudging me into this journey with you. You have captured that feeling of wanting to start but somehow being unable to start. We do ask our students to publish on a regular basis, thank you for reminding us that we need to show them that we have the courage to do the same.

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  16. Thanks as always for the trust you place in us. I’m glad to be back exchanging writing with you because you so often serve up snippets like this one from your student: “Can you help? This story is important but it’s hard for me to write about…” Words like those feel like a flamethrower incinerating most — but never all! — of my own inclinations to (great word) dither!

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    1. Honestly, it’s moments like that when I realize how important this writing (and publishing!) really is. How else could I have helped this student? Why else would he have asked?

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  17. “Ideas fill my head at all the moments when I’m not able to write them down. I shape the phrases, find the insights, promise to remember, to catch them…. and then I don’t.” Oh, writing friend, I get this. Have you ever tried recording your thoughts? Only to have them misinterpreted by your phone (or whichever device to which you were speaking?)
    Your piece spoke to me (as they always do!) but REALLY spoke to me this time. I have not written since last year (no surprise there!), and every year, I am so stressed about “revealing” my imperfect self. My pieces never feel finished nor polished, especially with the constraints of the whole darned day (and I don’t even have kids or a husband!) I am so glad you’re back, in all your imperfectly perfect perfection! I LOVE reading your posts, and I need you this month, Ms. Potts! Today was my first day back since March 13, 2020, and I’ll be damned if I thought I could summon any amount of energy to pay my rent on this first day of March, let alone write some godawful semi-poem/stream of consciousness ramble for all the world (or 4 people) to read (or not). Thanks for motivating me! Welcome back!

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