Standard advice for a writer in the query process is to get cracking on the next book. A preoccupied mind deflects rejection easier. It also proves you’re serious about developing a career out of this writing thing— even though in the back of your mind you’ve toyed with throwing it all away for life on the French Riviera, right after you win the lottery you never play because you need all your singles for the laundromat.

Four options await: resurrect the novel written as soon as the first draft of Kaitlyn’s story was finished; dust off the third completed manuscript, which was born from a prompt in a writing workshop; research the historical that keeps poking at me; or return to the memoir I abandoned when the Magic 13 kidnapped me eighteen months ago.

Each option brings its own set of challenges and will help me sharpen the techniques learned during the revision process. Or, I could toss them all and noodle around with stream of consciousness until an uncut gem knocks those fab four sideways.

Any one of the above will prevent me from fretting over what is, or isn’t, happening on the query front. But none of them is enough.

While stumbling around in pitch purgatory, I realized one of my weaknesses. I don’t shy away from worst-case scenarios. But targeting the personal and/or professional stakes for the protagonist and deliberately torquing them to the Nth degree is a struggle. In order to learn the best way to torture my protagonists, it’s time to make writer-me as uncomfortable as possible.

Welcome to the 52 week Writing Challenge.

Along with completing the memoir— funny how decisions are made in a blink of cursor— my plan is to write a piece of fiction or creative non-fiction, which tops out at no more than 5000 words, because the more pressure the better. That’s the point of stakes. Subject matter will be plucked from all the writing exercises and prompts I’ve avoided over the last 19 years.

It’s nutty, and failure is more probable than possible. But whenever I think about not diving in I’m reminded of graduate school. Three years of teaching and taking classes, while rehearsing one play in the afternoon and another in the evening, and studying until two in the morning, then getting up at 4 a.m. to put in a couple more hours. And oh yeah, I worked part-time to make ends meet. I have no intention of cutting back on sleep, but I’m capable of working on more than one project. These weekly Notes from the Toolbox prove it, so…

Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.

Over the next 52 weeks, what adorns these pages will be a lot of raw ugly beginnings. But I’m eager to find out how uncomfortable writer-me pushes back against each week’s challenge. All stories will be posted in my Writing Practice, but if you’d like to follow my progress in “real time” subscribe to Notes from the Toolbox, and each story will land in your inbox every Thursday.

What are you prepared to do to take your writing to the next level?