My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

In honor of International Women’s Day, I thought it’d be appropriate to write about a book I read recently by a champion of women’s rights: Gloria Steinem.

My Life on the Road is an interesting title for a book by an author who doesn’t even have a driver’s license, yet Steinem gets around more than most people.

As someone who has not yet read Steinem’s other books, including the famous Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (it’s on my list!), I worried I might not be able to appreciate Steinem’s memoir as much as her devoted followers and readers. But if anything, My Life on the Road is the perfect introduction to Steinem’s work and a book that, after reading, made me count myself as one of her followers.

Steinem was in the news last month for her answer to Bill Maher’s question of why she thought so many young women support Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton. In what seemed like an off-the-cuff response, she said, “When you’re young, you’re thinking: ‘Where are the boys? The boys are with Bernie.’” Predictably, young women weren’t having that, and many called Steinem out for it. (She later apologized, adding that she had been misinterpreted.)

While it’s important to hold public figures accountable (and I certainly disagree with Steinem’s comment), I was amazed at how seething some of the backlash was. This was a woman who not only cofounded Ms. magazine, but the National Women’s Political Caucus, the Women’s Action Alliance, the Women’s Media Center, Voters for Choice, Choice USA and more. She was arrested while protesting the South African apartheid, created the Women and AIDS Fund, and testified on behalf of the Equal Rights Amendment. So. Her heart is clearly in the right place.

Gloria Steinem

flickr/JewishWomensArchive

But back to the book: This memoir was not the result of a woman nearing 80, enjoying her retirement and being convinced to write a fluffy life story that would no doubt sell. My Life on the Road is rich and detailed in its description of not just Steinem’s history, but recent U.S. history as well, and politics in particular. Steinem gives just enough context of the social and political landscape of her early activist years that a younger reader or anyone new to feminism could appreciate the significance of Steinem’s—and other women’s—experiences. Her stories, of course, span decades and continents, and I was amazed by Steinem’s memory, or meticulous note-taking over the years, or both.

My Life on the Road isn’t just a book about feminism or activism, though it’s very much those things, too—it’s a book about the human spirit, serendipity, the importance of listening, the meaning of home, and friendship. While she jokes that a couple of events likely aged her, Steinem’s nomadic lifestyle has clearly kept her youthful. Now 81, she’s as sharp as ever.

A few excerpts from the book:

“No wonder studies show that women’s intellectual self-esteem tends to go down as years of education go up. We have been studying our own absence. I say this as a reminder that campuses not only help create social justice movements, they need them.”


“Reproductive freedom means what it says and also protects the right to have a child. A woman can’t be forced into an abortion, just as she can’t be forced out of childbirth by sterilization or anything else: the women’s movement is as devoted to the latter as the former—including the economic ability to support a child.”


“…It was okay for two generations of Bush sons to inherit power from a political patriarchy even if they spent no time in the White House, but not okay for one Clinton wife to claim experience and inherit power from a husband whose full political partner she had been for twenty years. I was angry because young men in politics were treated like rising stars, but young women were treated like—well, young women.”


“All my years of campaigning have given me one clear message: Voting isn’t the most we can do, but it is the least. To have a democracy, you have to want one.”
 Have you read My Life on the Road or Steinem’s other books? What did you think?

Wrapping up #ResolveToWrite: How was your February?

#ResolveToWrite: write on your own terms

Welcome back! How did your writing go in February?

To those of you who participated in #ResolveToWrite, it was really cool to see how the prompts inspired you to do some freewriting or incorporate the theme into something you were already working on. I loved seeing snapshots of your writing lives and processes! But regardless of whether or how much you participated, I hope the message of #ResolveToWrite resonated and inspired you to stay on track with your writing goals.

For me, there were highs and lows just like any other month, and if I’m being honest, I didn’t write every day. But having this challenge in the back of my mind was a constant reminder to be working on something, no matter what it leads to. And it worked—I ended up publishing on one of my favorite women-powered sites and am working on a pitch for a more journalistic story to keep the momentum going. It’s a relief to be reminded that despite some disappointments and setbacks over the past few months, I have not, in fact, lost my ability to write something out of passion. Funny how creativity begets creativity.

Keeping up with our creative writing will always be difficult as long as we have jobs, families and lives, but it will always be worth it. Which is why even though the #ResolveToWrite challenge has officially ended, I want to keep the spirit going. While you are always free to use the writing prompts to start a 30-day challenge of your own, not everyone needs that kind of structure. Instead, use the #ResolveToWrite message to make the commitment or set the goal that fit your needs, whether it’s writing every day, telling the story that scares you, or pitching 12 stories a year.

As we settle into March, I #ResolveToWrite through the self-doubt and other mental blocks to give my writing a chance to grow. I resolve to let go of the guilt that comes with not writing, too—because guilt serves no purpose in fostering a creative life.

Are you with me? Here are a few sample resolutions you can tweet just by clicking them. (Or tweet one of your own!)

Tweet: This month, I #ResolveToWrite every day, no matter what.
Tweet: This month, I #ResolveToWrite what I want to write—not what I think I should.
Tweet: This month, I #ResolveToWrite without guilt, without fear, and without expectations.

#ResolveToWrite: A February challenge to keep 2016 on track

It’s already February. How’s that writing project going?

That’s right guys, we’re now in the second month of 2016. (Is anyone else still writing “2015” in their notes and furiously scratching it out every time?)

There’s a decent chance that these past few weeks have gone by in a blink of an eye for many of us who have been struggling with slow progress, stagnant attempts or missed goals in our writing—not the start of a new year most of us envision. This is totally normal, but frustrating.

Luckily, there are still 11 whole months left in 2016 to get back on track. I thought February 1st seemed like an apt time to come up with a writing challenge. So behold! Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to complete these 29 writing prompts for each day in February. (Turns out 2016 is a leap year—consider it a bonus.)

#ResolveToWrite: A February Challenge

The purpose & who it’s for

The goal is simple: My hope for you and me both is that we write something every day for a month—even if, some days, there’s only time for 15 minutes. I also want you to feel inspired and playful. Even though this is a writing challenge, it should be fun—not a chore!

I had so much fun coming up with unexpected, thought-provoking prompts that writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry alike would enjoy interpreting these prompts however they see fit.

How to participate

Starting today, dedicate at least a few minutes every day for a month to writing something—a blog post, a short story, a stream-of-consciousness diary entry, a microblog on Instagram, whatever. Document your experience, progress and anything you publish online using the hashtag #ResolveToWrite. (Tweet about it now.)

This challenge is not about arbitrary rules that don’t apply to your writing goals. So if you’re working on a novel and want to focus on that, you don’t have to use every single writing prompt. (Though you may find some of the prompts will spark inspiration for a scene, conversation or turn of events.) And if you join in late, no worries. You can start this challenge any time. As long as you use the #ResolveToWrite hashtag, I’ll be there cheering you on.

Perks if you join in!

If you join in during the first two days using the hashtag #ResolveToWrite, I’ll feature you and any work you’d like to promote in WTH Weekly, the newsletter I send out every Saturday. (You must also be subscribed to the newsletter—after all, you’ll want to be able to see it and forward it to your biggest fan!)

And if you participate at all during the month using #ResolveToWrite and are subscribed to WTH Weekly, you’ll be eligible to win this “Write Like a Motherfucker” mug from The Rumpus. (The Rumpus is not sponsoring this giveaway—I just thought the theme and the heart-shaped design were too perfect for a February writing challenge!) All you have to do is fill in your info using the Raffelcopter widget below to verify. See below for entry details.

#ResolveToWrite giveaway

photo and mug from therumpus.net

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Does that sound like fun or what?! I’m looking forward to doing the prompts along with you and will be tweeting updates from my personal account.

If you’re on board, sign up for the newsletter here, send a tweet (here’s a pre-written tweet for you), enter using the Rafflecopter widget above, then get to work! Let’s make the shortest month of the year count. Happy writing!

Every writer could use some help (updates & resources for you)

Witty Title Here - Resources for Writers

I woke up to a very nice surprise yesterday. Witty Title Here was voted one of 100 Best Websites for Writers by the popular and oh-so-helpful blog The Write Life. How cool is that?! Witty Title Here earned a spot among some amazing (not to mention high-profile) sites like ProBlogger, The Middle Finger Project, Brain Pickings and lots more of my favorites. (You can see the whole list here.) Needless to say, I’m psyched to be in such good company.

This news couldn’t come at a more apt time, because I just made some major changes to the resources page, where you can find tons of helpful links to all sorts of writing tools and inspiration, including scholarship info, writing prompts, composing and editing software, and other blogs to follow. (Though I’ll have to add more links to that section once I’ve checked out some more of those sites on the Write Life roundup!)

I’ve also included a bunch of great links to sites that compile submission deadlines for things like contests and fellowships. These links are where I find the submission deadlines I include in my newsletter every week, but if you don’t want to have to comb through these listings constantly, you can sign up for WTH Weekly and I’ll send them to you instead.

So take a look at the resources page, and let me know what you think! This page will be updated frequently—eventually with more resources created by yours truly!—so be sure to check back periodically. I’d also love your suggestions for any of the categories listed, plus anything else you think would be helpful to your fellow writers.

And stay tuned for a writing challenge that will kick off in February with the intention of keeping us on track with our writing goals. Now that we’re a few weeks into 2016, it’s a great time to reinvigorate ourselves, whether you just need a little extra motivation or are struggling to keep up with the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year. Sound good? See you then!

“We write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver.” ― Virginia Woolf

Don’t die a hoarder of your words

Don't die a hoarder of your words

One of the best stories I’ve ever written sits unpublished in a Google Docs folder.

I reread it for the first time in a long time the other day.

I reported and wrote it more than a year ago for a magazine writing class that focused heavily on creating vivid scenes through powerful dialogue and concrete details. It had been a long time since I’d done that kind of writing, which I’d mostly only ever attempted in fiction, but I became obsessed with the process.

The story lent itself well to such detailed description. It took place in an impoverished desert town a couple hours outside of Los Angeles, where stray dogs dart in front of cars and the streets have names like “Avenue R.” My main source was a vigilante on a mission, a tough yet generous woman, but the central character of the story was a dangerous, evil man—and the cause of a lot of division in the small community.

When I opened this story for the first time in months (with the idea of possibly fictionalizing it), I expected all its flaws to immediately jump out and remind me why the sole editor I pitched it to rejected it. But instead, all I thought reading it was, “I can’t believe I didn’t send this around. What was wrong with me?” As many publications as there are out there, this story could have and would have found a home, I’m now sure.

This lack of follow-through upon the completion or near-completion of a piece of work is certainly not unique to me. How many writers at some point in their lives have abandoned a story halfway through, given up after getting rejected once, or never let their work see the light of day because it’s never quite perfect? My guess is every single one. After all, no one shits rainbows every time.

But how many writers continue this self-defeating behavior throughout their lives, limiting themselves to mediocre success at best, disappointment and disenchantment at worst? More than we could ever know or guess, all because they’re not letting themselves be vulnerable to rejection and criticism.

Everyone has their excuses. For me, it was that the story still had some minor flaws in the structure I was unsure of how to fix. I didn’t have access to expensive court documents that would’ve taken it up a notch. I was afraid that the story’s central character—the violent, evil man—might find and hurt me. These were all valid concerns, but they were lousy excuses for letting the story die.

The kicker? The day after I dug this file up again, a major newspaper ran their own version of the story. The same central character, the same facts, even some of the same sources I’d written about and reported on more than a year ago! I have a feeling life will keep cheerily providing such lessons as this if I don’t make some adjustments.

Luckily, that was not the last good story I will ever write. The same goes for anyone else who blew an opportunity or is simply in a rut. Because contrary to the irrational yet commonly held fear that creativity is a well that runs dry, there will always be more to tap into as long as we remain open to it. We can’t be fully receptive to it, though, if we keep the things we create to ourselves. What good is shielding our hearts and our words from scrutiny?

If you still need further convincing, just remember, there is plenty of terrible writing readily available on the internet that’s thoughtlessly published every day by people who don’t even consider themselves writers. That content machine just keeps chugging. Don’t let those voices be the majority.

Death doesn’t discriminate, and it’d be a damn shame to die hoarding our work.

So quit tweaking, fiddling, second-guessing, and giving up, and start pitching, publishing, promoting and celebrating your writing. If you don’t, who else will?