creative writing

I’m Back (For Good.)

I am notorious for encouraging vulnerability.

My family will tell you that, hopefully, my friends will tell you that, and my students will most certainly tell you that. Even just reading this blog for approximately five minutes will tell you that.

Not too long ago though, I got myself into a situation in which allowing myself to be very vulnerable also caused me a lot of pain. Afterward, I found myself wondering if not being afraid of vulnerability was too risky a way to live. That perhaps everyone else had it right, keeping their inner selves protected for as long as possible. I spent some time in deep thought, trying to understand how vulnerability, which was something I intrinsically knew so well, could betray me so deeply and leave me hurting, rather than healed. I found myself fearful of the future. Was this a negative turning point in my life? Would I now join the masses of people struggling to open up, holding other people at arm’s length because it’s the only safe way to avoid pain?

I was terrified. I had spent my life hearing people talk about how difficult it was for them to open up and be themselves, and I was so grateful that I didn’t have that struggle (in some scenarios, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.) But now I stood on the brink of falling into that trap, and I realized that people are not naturally born afraid of vulnerability, we are trained to become afraid as a result of negative experiences.

I decided I was not going to let that happen to me. Whatever it would take, I would force myself to continue being open and vulnerable. If that meant opening myself up once again to the risk of being in pain, so be it. This realization came to me after a friend looked at me and asked me, honestly: “If you could do over the entire scenario, but this time be careful not to be as open as you were, would you make that choice?”

When I realized that the answer to that was a very strong no, I realized that I’d always rather be open as a person, no matter the potential cost. Because the reward is still so much greater.

I find comfort and joy in putting everything on the table. I appreciate knowing that the person I am talking to is learning the full extent of who I am. I don’t like hiding. I do often hide, and I always hate how it feels. The truth is, in scenarios in which it is unnecessary or unacceptable to bring up certain topics, I feel uncomfortable. As soon as I’m holding myself back from saying certain things, I struggle to come up with what to say altogether. When people are just meeting me and don’t know me fully, I am aware of the way they inaccurately perceive me – quiet, maybe shy, not very dimensional. Someone who likes to stick to the status quo. Perhaps that is why sharing my writing gives me so much joy. It’s my way of showing the world who I am in an expedited manner. We don’t have to struggle through small talk here, I just get to tell it like it is.

I’ve missed sharing.

Over the last few weeks, some very kind people have been telling me how much they appreciate my blog posts, and I’ve felt incredibly touched, and slightly guilty. I didn’t feel like I deserved compliments on my blog when I’ve consciously allowed it to completely fall by the wayside. I was embarrassed to tell people to check my blog out, knowing that they’d clearly see it was not very active.

While yes, there will always be things that I will not share on this platform, as it is a public one, I am aware that writing consistent blog posts about my world keeps me in a state of vulnerability, and reminds me that there are always benefits to share something that is a little scary to share.

I miss being in that space.

I’ve resisted this for so long, hoping that my mere self-motivation or sheer will would push me to get blog posts out there in a consistent, timely fashion.

Clearly, it hasn’t.

I obviously need the pressure of commitment to a goal to push me in the right direction. 

At some point this year, I told my students: “Figure out what it takes to get yourself to write, and don’t let go of that.”

So why have I not given in sooner?

I am not going to let fear, procrastination or excuses get the best of me.

I once wrote on this blog that I never want to be someone who tells young, aspiring writers that I once had a blog, as I’ve been told many a time from many an adult. I want to be someone who can tell young, aspiring writers that I’ve had an active blog for years, and I still do. 

With that in mind:

I am officially reinstating the 52 weeks of blog posts.

Today is number 1.

I am busier than I was when I did this the first time, but they say if you want something done, ask a busy person, so I’m going to put myself up to the task.

So. Here goes.

Let’s see where this journey takes me.




Featured Photo by NORTHFOLK on Unsplash

To The One Who Made Me

Dear G-d,

In six days, I’ll be standing in synagogue, standing before You, a tiny speck before an all-encompassing, all-knowing creator. Before the big day, I’d like to write to you, so that I can explain where I’m coming from this year.
You and I, we have quite the relationship. I’d like to say it’s mostly reliable. I turn to You on a constant basis, and You respond. I may not hear Your words per-se, but You respond in other ways.
When I’m in a rush, and the lights work in my favor, I know that’s You.
When I wake up in the morning, energized and inspired, excited about my day, I know that’s You.
When the food I’m cooking comes out tasting exactly the way I was hoping, I know that’s You.
When I find things right before I lose them, I know that’s You.
When the concept I’ve been struggling with for a while suddenly clicks, I know that’s you.
When the little things and the big things seem to fall into place, I know that’s You.
When life darkens, and things feel trapped, that is still You.
When the pain is greater than the joy, that is still You.
When things fall on the ground, when anxiety is rampant, when lives are taken, when the world seems to be falling apart at the seams, that is still You.
And it’s on those days that hurt the most that I am forced to recognize that the same You that brings goodness and joy to our world also brings pain and misery and mourning.
As a simple human being, I struggle to wrap my head around this, G-d, but the truth is I don’t want to understand.
I just want You to start choosing goodness.
Is there a cup that must be filled with tears to turn the tide? G-d, I am confident that it is overflowing.
You created me, You give me each thought, each step, each new day.
Sometimes I wonder, when You breathed life into me on that very first day, what were your hopes and dreams for me?
What did you hope I would do with the gifts you’ve handed me? What did you hope I’d say with the words you gave me?
And am I doing it, G-d? Am I following the path You painstakingly created for me?
Some days it feels like I’m walking my own path, all alone, so determined to do things differently. You made me this way, didn’t You?
What did You dream for me?
There are times in life, G-d, I just wish You would speak.
I’ll be in synagogue in six days, and G-d, I have so many prayers.
I have countless dreams and wishes for this world, for my future, for the people I love.
I’ll be bringing them all to You, every last one.
I am no saint, nowhere close, and I fail on a pretty consistent basis.
But I am Yours, aren’t I?
G-d, You’ve designed a glorious world. It is filled with natural sights that blow my mind on a daily basis, it is filled with billions of people who do their best every day with what You’ve given them. You’ve given us so much, yet you’ve also taken more than You need, and G-d, I pray that You see us worthy of so much more goodness.
We’re all just doing our best, G-d.
And as the Shofar blows next week, and our prayers are lifted to your doorstep, do Your best.
Do Your best to say yes. Give us our dreams. Give us our wishes. Answer our prayers in the way that we seek for them to be answered.
Allow the things I only dare dream about become a part of my reality.
Allow the work of my blood, sweat and tears to develop into something more real and more beautiful than I could have hoped.
In six days, I’ll be in synagogue, standing before You, my heart open, my words sincere. My whole self, with my past behind me, and my future that only You know – it’ll all be there.
G-d, You created me. Now You have to deal with me. And being that You created me, You should know better than anyone what that means.

I don’t give up all too quickly.



Blog Post: 50/52!

Featured Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

The Background

On September 11th, 2017 I decided to write a blog post every week.

It’s been 26 weeks since, and I haven’t yet missed a week. Halfway – and going strong.
I’ve really liked some of them. Whether it felt like I was finally expressing a deep truth I’ve wanted to express for a long time, or whether those who read it reached out in a variety of ways to let me know what it meant to them, some of my blog posts had a real impact on me.
Some of them kind of floated by. There were a couple of weeks I toyed with the idea of skipping it, because why write when you don’t feel it? Why write when there is nothing to write about? Is putting my random words out there more important than putting something of quality out there?
But at the end of each week, my commitment won out. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to commitments – once I make em, I can’t break em. I get a thrill out of keeping to them. That part of my personality has it’s pro’s and con’s but that’s not what this is about.
That’s really just to explain why even if all my posts haven’t been of the greatest quality, I’ve still been sharing them.
This week, I closed up a short story unit with my students.
We’ve been working on it for a long time because, in comparison to poetry, flaws in short stories shout a lot louder. It’s much harder to know when you are done, it’s much harder to fall in love with a story you crafted because you’re never sure if you did enough.
And my students were feeling that pressure. I could tell.
But this week, I looked at them and told them this week it was going to happen. They were going to finish their short stories.
As I write this, I’m waiting for the last few to submit them.
But so far, I couldn’t be more proud.
Writing a blog post every week has pushed me. It made me realize how similar my posts were. It pushed me to try my best to spice it up a little. That led me to write 3 short stories in the span of 6 months.
I had written about 3 short stories in my entire life before this October.
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and bare with me because this post is a little bit of everything, a little bit of everywhere.
I’ve been thinking about growth – which you know from my last post.
I’ve been thinking about risks. Pushing limits. Trying new things. Allowing yourself to be who you are, truly, deeply and authentically. The kind of be yourself that shakes you and wakes you up and reminds you that you are meant for more, that you can be doing things that you never thought possible – as long as you reach inside of yourself and use the tools you’ve been given. I’ve been thinking about owning up to yourself, looking yourself in the eye.
I’ve been thinking about what I want out of this life, and how quickly the days are going by, and how until G-d slowly moves the puzzle pieces of my life into the picture I want, I have multitudes of blessings to work with. But I’ve also been thinking that I don’t have to be content with that – I can stomp my feet and ask for more, as long as all the while, I am thanking Him for what He’s given me.
I’ve always been a bit of a paradox. I’ve lived much of my life fearful of others thoughts and others minds, and the fact that I can’t see inside them.
Yet, I’ve also lived in an almost fearless way of not being afraid of telling others what I feel. Of reaching out, of putting myself in the deepest, most vulnerable spaces for the sake of something so much bigger and better.
I’ve been thinking about perfection. I’ve been thinking about how much I wish my writing was perfect, that I was perfect. Often, I find myself admiring other’s wonderful qualities and wishing for them – before I remind myself that just like dying my hair red, someone else’s best quality would sit oddly on me. And that life is not about being like others, it’s about being there for others in the best way we can be.
I’ve been thinking about my future, because I never stop thinking about my future, and how I spend each day looking for the rest of the characters to walk in at any moment.
I’ve been thinking about how I chopped my hair off, and in some twisted way, my hair knew that I needed something drastic to change before my heart truly admitted it.
I’ve been thinking about 21, and what it means, and how much it doesn’t mean.
I’ve been thinking about all of these things.
I’ve been reading my student’s stories and realizing that doing something that scares you is the deepest reward you can give yourself.
I’ve done things that scare me, and sometimes the result is obvious, the gain is immense.
Sometimes you do things that scare you, and the result is not obvious, and you can barely see any change, any gain.
But I’m realizing that every moment, every thought, every word, every day, despite how meaningless they often seem, are so so full of impact, so so full of development.
And as I make my small plans down here, G-d is shifting the big things up there.
And as I scheme and develop what I feel are big things down here, G-d is moving timelines and space to make my dreams come true.
I’ve written 26 blog posts since September.
Some of them, I could feel the words rush through me, their purpose clear.
Some of them I posted with some shame, some feeling of letting someone down, perhaps me most of all.
But I don’t think any of them were useless.
For they proved to me, if nothing else, that I can do it.
That it’s sometimes not about perfection, it’s not about being inspiring, or funny, or insightful, or writing the best post ever.
My students may not have all fallen in love with their short stories – but they wrote them, and you know what?
For me, for today, that’s what counts.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m trying to remind myself that I only see one tiny sliver of the picture. And I know that in the deep part of my heart, but it’s much less accepted in the forefront of my brain. So when my blog post seems like it’s missing something – yet I post it anyway, and I make plans, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to follow them through, or I pray, and pray, and pray, yet it seems like I’m praying to a closed door – I am trying to remember that this is not everything. I don’t know everything. I never will.
And as I feel guilty for wanting more from life when I have so, so much, I am reminded that I don’t even know how much more I could have, and while it is foolish to feel ungrateful, it is useless to feel guilty.
And as I discover the impact of one moment months later I am reminded that I never know the background story of what is happening around me, and I am reminded that as I pray for G-d to write my story…

He is writing as fast as He can.

Blog Post: 26/52

Featured Photo courtesy of a birthday gift from a very thoughtful friend.

Perspective: 5 Years Later.

I recently found my notebook from my high school creative writing club and chanced upon this one exercise we did. We were challenged to write a poem about 3 big things that we had opinions on: marriage, the future, and our career goals.
As a 16-year-old, I was very sure of my thoughts. I never shared this poem anywhere because I remember not thinking it was very good. But today, almost five years later, I’m going to share it.
Together with a follow-up poem about where I’m at now.
Who knows; maybe I’ll keep writing updates for years to come. And yes, I feel pressure to outdo my younger self. If I haven’t become a better writer, what have I done?

Past Etti:

At most I am a skeptic,
a non-believer in the tried and trusted,
a mocker of those who live blindly.
A realist, or is it a pessimist?
I struggle to see the beauty
in words repeated.
Marriage is a far off life,
a place where you must be a wife,
I only search for late night walks,
and a fairy-tale happy ending.
I find myself always searching,
for something better, something nice.
I’m the future
I want to be a woman
who can answer to “What do you do?”
with the words “I change the world”
and change diapers too.
For yes, I want to see the world,
and fix all that I see,
I want to be different,
Powerful, bold and strong,
but motherings my thing.
I search for a career,
that feeds that very need.
Working with children
more special than I’ll ever be.
So this is my perspective,
on this g-d forsaken world,
I wonder what will cross these pages
in a year or two.

Present day Etti:

What is it like
to be sure?
“Are you ready?”
“What kind of guy?”
“What are you studying?”
“What do you want to do?”
that some days
have answers,
and some days
do not.
Having the answers
is comforting,
Not knowing
you still have a chance
to make it better;
more alive.
I live in fear
of living a lie
of living a life
I never intended to.
My days are meant to be filled
with digging deep
and building up.
I’ve always wanted to help
so I was drawn
to those who called for it.
I search for those
who don’t know
how to call.
While babies
and diapers
seem foreign to my
day-to-day life,
My half-of-a-soul
is calling to be whole.
As each day comes,
and then it goes,
I’ve learned
we are in even less control,
than we think we are.
Blog Post: 7/52

Feature Photo by Vitaliy Paykov via Unsplash.

Getting Out Of My Way

Ambition, hard work, success. All these great, exciting words.

Why is it all so elusive?
Me and big ideas – we work really well in the honeymoon stage. New notebook, new pens, a plan. There is nothing more invigorating for me than the night before I plan to do something. In that moment, emotions are running high, I am so unbelievably motivated and excited.
Then, I wake up in the morning.
Suddenly, there is nothing less inspiring than whatever it is that I need to get done. In the moment that I decide I want to do something, I really truly do want to do it. When it comes to actually doing it, I look at the path I have to take to get there, and it’s riddled with pot holes. It is covered in anxiety and situations in which I will have to leap out of my comfort zone. It is filled with things I have no idea how to do.
That is when I lose my resolve.
It’s not that I want the end result any less, but the time, patience, and good old hard work it will take to get there makes it all seem much less glamorous.
In school, I was the master of getting away with things. I worked to make things easier for myself then, not realizing how much harder things would be later without the skill of working hard.
You know in the movies, when time is passing, years maybe, and the character is killing it? Working long hours to get the promotion, isolating themselves so that they can ace the test, etc. Movie-makers always put those scenes into a fast-paced montage, speeding through a lifetime of hard, hard work.
I always love those scenes. They’re so satisfying. They’re so fast.
Movies can not make rags-to-riches stories without these scenes because it is impossible for riches to come from rags without hard work.
Yet, they must make these scenes fast-paced and exciting – because hard work is ugly. Nobody wants to see it. Nobody wants to think about it.
I am privileged. I have everything I need. I have enough basic skills for me to hold down a job. I don’t suffer from any major physical or mental difficulties, thank G-d. I have a loving and supportive family. I have people who believe in me, people who love me, people who look out for me.
Yet, hard work is my biggest challenge. Persevering and pushing through, even when I am handed all the tools, is my biggest road block in achieving my goals.
Then there are those who have nothing that I have.
They build futures out of the sand, they craft homes out of dust. They keep going, they fight through the searing pain, the hot tears, and continuous crash of everything collapsing again and again. They stand back up and keep on going. 
I dream about being those people. The people who know that the end result is worth the mind-numbing tasks it takes to get there. The people who can continuously remind themselves of their goal, and how much they want it.
Dreaming is what I’m good at – action is my weakness.
Somehow, one of my big ideas became an accidental reality. I’ve always wanted to run some sort of creative writing club, the kind of club that I was lucky to be a part of in High School.
While speaking to a principal that I am thoroughly in awe of, I brought up that idea, and in a moment of bravery, asked if I could teach a creative writing elective in her school.
She said yes, and here I am, the day before my first class.
It is something that scares me like nothing else has ever scared me.
It has made me face myself in so many ways.
As I was working through some of the most important things I wanted to impart with my class, I came upon a big one.
Hard work.
I instantly felt like a total fraud.
I am being careful to teach only what I have been taught, and nothing more. I can only teach what I know deep inside of me.
Hard work just isn’t one of them.
Yet, teaching a creative writing class without explaining to my students the importance of hard work is also an impossibility.
So, I have only one more choice.
Learn how to work hard.
We are now in the month of Elul, approaching the month of Tishrei quickly. It is said that the month of Elul is an opportune time to reflect on the past year, on who you are as a person.
My last year was an interesting one, but without a doubt, I want this one to be even better. I want to be stronger, braver, smarter.
I will start by working on not being afraid of pushing myself.
Of course, I have a million ideas on how to do this, much of will never come to fruition.
But that’s the key – being aware of what I can actually accomplish.
Therefore, I will not promise to finally get into shape, publish a novel, or travel the world. Those are all things that I hope will be a part of my year in some ways, but can not be my one goal.
To prove to myself that I can work hard is something simple:
I will blog once a week. 
I’ve made that promise a million times to myself, but I’ve always broken it.
This is something I know that I can do with hard work and perseverance. I chose this goal for a few reasons:
1. It is exactly what I want to impart to my students: Writing is something that can come out of pure hard work. Waiting for the inspiration is lazy.
2. It is something I’ve wanted to prove to myself that I can do for years.
3. It will push me to write when I have nothing to say. Because when I have nothing external inspiring me to write, that is when I turn inwards and find a part of myself I never knew existed.
While I expect to learn a lot about life and a lot about writing from my students, I am glad to say that even before I’ve met them, they are pushing me to become the person I’ve always wanted to be.
Blog post: 1/52

Featured Image: Photo by Jared Erondu on Unsplash

I Closed The Doors

I’ve been having a rough time with this blog.

I’ve been taking a creative writing college course, and it’s forced me to write in ways that I never have had to before. I had to write poetry even if I saw no beauty in the world that day. I had to write a short story even if my characters didn’t wake up on time. I had to write a play-script, for the first time in my life, and try not to get bogged down by the technicalities of my stage directions being the right font and size.
It has challenged me in all the right ways, which means it was painful sometimes.
It also means it opened me up. I had to write a 3 page memoir, and think about things that hurt me.
I consider myself to be a rather open and honest person, I don’t usually hide in my writing. As a person, yeah, I’m pretty much as guarded as they come, but with my writing, I was always so proud of how raw I was.
But then this class happened.
I started getting marked on my writing.
I started getting critiqued.
Suddenly, my writing did not automatically equal good grades on English essays or friendly praise.
There are people who are better writers than I am.
My teacher and other students at times had bad things to say about my writing.
While I always knew that these were true, and I knew that they were enabling me to grow as a writer and as a person, my ego took a hard hit.
It was hard to write a blog post without thought again.
To write without really caring what others thought, because now I knew that my writing was full of flaws.
I have blog posts written up. But they’re all too revealing, too awkward, too scary to put into the world.
My creative writing class has forced me to be naked in front of so many people.
To be vulnerable, to be broken, to be open wide.
It has taught me to take criticism without tears, to correct the flaws in my writing and take a step back to realize that it’s better now.
It didn’t happen overnight. It happened over a few months. I became more scared of the publish button. I became less eager to share.
I began to treat my blog posts like my assignments. If they weren’t perfect, they weren’t deserving. I couldn’t bare to give people a chance to see my vulnerabilities, to criticize my use of words.
So I slowed down my posts.
I didn’t have enough that I felt brave enough about.
I made things about other people. I kept myself intact, I repeated things that people already knew.
At the same time, several adults had told me in conversation about their old blogs. About how they loved blogging but it’s a thing of the past.
I realized that this blog is going nowhere and in five years it’ll be a fun thing I did as a teenager.
I realized how much I don’t want to lose this blog.
I don’t want to lose my ability to be vulnerable.
To be open.
To be raw.
To have grammar mistakes. To be offensive. To be offended.
I don’t want to close another door, after I worked so hard to keep it open.
As much as I have learnt and grown from my creative writing class, I never want my blog posts to be treated as assignments by me.
They are two completely separate things, and they are both important. They are both too important to let them have an effect on each other.
I love connecting with people. Connecting with people is ridiculously hard when you hate small talk and don’t know how to be not awkward.
I have a blog post about that, and perhaps I’ll post it in the next few days.
I hope I do.
I hope the decision has nothing to do with the grade I got on my last assignment.
Whether I pass this class with the highest marks or the lowest, I know that writing fuels me in ways that nothing else does.
That’s why I blog. That’s why I bare all for those of you who read this.
If you have noticed that I haven’t been blogging much, and you wondered for a minute where I was, then I have so much love and appreciation for you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
If you haven’t, I get it. I’m just another girl on the internet assuming everyone cares about what I think, say and feel.
Either way, I’m here now.
I can’t promise a blog post as often as I used to, but I can promise that I’m going to try to keep this door open for as long as I can.
While perfection is necessary at times, like in assignments you need a good grade on, I will try to keep perfection and it’s rude ideals away from my blog posts.