While I’ve grown to enjoy living in the bright and shiny meadows of Las Vegas in the heart of the Mojave desert, one of the things I miss the most are the torrential downpours that occur on a daily basis in the middle of August. That’s not to say that I welcome the impending hurricane season that will bring more than one terrifying well-organized storm towards the Floridian peninsula. It’s that I love the descending darkness, the tension, and the strange hush that builds right before the storm brings its orchestral climax. Storms in the desert, when they do occur, rarely crescendo in the same manner.
August is one of those dog days of summer months that bring with it the cruelest temperatures. It was once one of the slowest months of the year, because of the fact that its terribly hot in most areas of the country. In spite of this, and perhaps because of it, a new kind of productivity seems to have begun to spring up. I’ve noticed that this August there are several ongoing monthly challenges such as the #Sealeychallenge, created by the poet Nicole Sealey, which is calling for readers to spend time each day reading one book (or chapbook) of poetry for the next 31 days. Then there is the 31 Plays in 31 Days challenge, which offers writing prompts for you to complete 31 short plays in 31 days.
Because of all of these challenges in the midst of the most languishing month of the year and because I just finished CampNaNoWriMo and completed my goal while participating, I decided that August would be the perfect month to kickstart a writing group that offers various challenges for its members each month. Thus, WriteShop was born. Currently we have 9 members on board for this month’s challenge with plans to continue on with various challenges and opportunities to make new writer friends from all over the US and world. And no, I’m not charging money for this, despite the fact that some organizations do this same thing by charging writers $500 each for a three month writing accountability group (I’m looking at you, Literistic). I think we as writers and artists should be trying to get wealthy individuals and companies to pay to sponsor ventures like this, with no strings attached, instead of asking other hopeful writers and artists to pay up. When we have finally established ourselves financially, then we can contribute back so that others can also take part in these programs. So many writers and artists have very little means. This is how an equitable and beneficial model for the arts works.
Besides starting WriteShop, which is allowing me to socialize with others around writing and holding me accountable to my goal of finishing the novel I started this past year, I’ve been gearing up to launch a side hustle business, polishing a chapbook I co-wrote with Sakurako Yamashita, a TASK 沖縄 colleague, and am also spending time seeking employment. I’ve been working on my goals, both long term and short, and realize that while everything can look shiny and glittery on social media, the real work on projects, on writing, on the self, requires long hours spent in contemplation, in the pleasures and pains of writing and spending time with ones thoughts, or in diligent organizing mode. You can boast all you want and maybe convince some suckers into believing the hype, but if its a paper-mâché kingdom, it’ll crumble eventually. I believe the old adage is: all that glitters is not gold. It takes long hours and lots of work, but if you put that work into anything on a daily basis, you will get to the goal that you wanted to reach. There are no real shortcuts to living a productive life. It may take your entire lifetime to be recognized for the hard work you’ve done. You may never be recognized in your life. But you’ve led a productive life engaging with your creativity, making new things, and contributing something back to the world. Social media is important to get the word out, to connect to others when needed, and to stay informed, but it shouldn’t be where all your hours are spent as a writer or an artist (or as any individual, really).
August is the perfect month to take one of these challenges so that you can fill the well, use the hours spent indoors avoiding the heat to work on a stalled project, or begin a new project. It is also the perfect month to spend as much time as you can watching the clouds roll in, marveling at the natural beauty this world offers to us on a daily basis