Every New Years throughout my late twenties and early thirties, I had the same resolution at the top of my list: to start writing again. In college, I could easily spend hours scribbling away in a notebook, coming up with sketches and monologues for theater classes while journaling in the evenings for my own self. Something about being in my early 20’s made the writing come easily–maybe it was the lack of stress and the abundance of free time. With adulthood came more responsibility as well as full-time work, and I no longer filled empty page upon page on a weekly basis. Years passed, and the trickle slowed until it dried up completely. Sometimes I’d look back at the journal I’d optimistically start in early January the previous year, and realize I’d only written one entry, failing miserably at my resolution.
In the fall of 2012, I was laid up at home from work for three months on medical leave while recovering from knee surgery. I was bored, depressed over my incapacitation, and itching for a sense of purpose. At that low point, I noticed a post on Facebook that would change everything; a friend I knew previously from roller derby was asking for tips on starting a writing group. I leapt on it and inquired if I could get involved. The move was a bit out of character for me; as a natural introvert, I wouldn’t usually invite myself along like that. To my delight, I was welcomed to join the initial meeting.
We met as a group for the first time in Elizabeth’s kitchen; I hobbled up the apartment stairs on my crutches, nervous but excited. I didn’t know what to expect, and as I soon learned, none of us did. I knew some of the members previously from derby, but not super well, and my shyness set in. We each read a piece we had written previously to get an idea of what we were interested in, what our writing voices sounded like, and because we weren’t quite sure what else exactly to do. We talked about goals, starting out with the simple but challenging intention of writing every day for 15 minutes. I went home inspired.
Each day, I’d lay on the couch with my braced leg propped up on a pillow, working my way through my daily routine–CPM machine therapy, Netflix, reading on my Kindle, then setting a timer on my phone to write for 15 minutes. Some days, it was a slog. Other days, the words flowed with a sense of purpose and I’d write longer as new ideas were sparked.
The members of Drinkers with Writing Problems continued to email each other writing exercises, and we’d meet at a neighborhood bar. Sometimes, the meetings consisted of much more drinking than writing. To keep ourselves accountable and knowing we were all motivated by deadlines, we launched this blog and assigned ourselves a regular posting schedule. Knowing that I had a writing ‘assignment’ helped me to further cement my new regular writing habits.
After more than 8 months of blogging, I felt ready to set a new, bigger goal for myself. I wanted to write a novel. It was something I’d wanted to do since childhood, but had always seemed too unwieldy and overwhelming to ever actually attempt. But after learning with the support of my fellow DWWP writers that I could keep myself on track to write a few pages a week, the goal seemed a little more within my grasp. Giving myself a generous time frame, I resolved to write a novel-length manuscript in 2014.
I chipped away at my novel in fits and starts, sometimes putting it down for weeks at a time. During other months, I’d write pages a day, and the characters started to feel like people I actually knew. Their storylines began to venture away from my original outline as they took on lives of their own.
I typed the last words on Dec. 29, and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction washed over me as I closed my laptop. I had kept a resolution. It isn’t the Great American Novel and it can desperately use a vigorous reworking in its second draft. But that’s fine; I know now what I am capable of doing if I actually put my nose to the grindstone. I got to that point over the course of several years, taking one small step towards my goal at a time. For that, I thank the writers of DWWP who have not only been great supporters but have also become dear friends. And it all started with a simple but challenging goal of 15 minutes a day.
If you have writing goals of your own and aren’t sure where to start, I encourage you to take that small but significant first leap
and sign up for DWWP’s workshop this Saturday, Oct. 10th at 11:30 am. Update: We’re all sold out! But if you are interested in a future workshop, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.