In my first semester of college, I spent dozens of sunny afternoons in my composition professor’s office waiting for her to tell me that I was a good writer—those words never came.
Until one day, her eyes cut clear across the stacks of essays on her desk right to mine. She told me to listen very closely.
She said that I was a fine writer. But I should not expect to hear these words ever again. She said that confirmations like this do not come from other people in the “real world.” She said that this was something I would have to find within myself.
A lesson like that, of course, flew straight through my wide eyes like two birds fading into a sunset.
We all ask the same great questions: Do I belong? Am I good enough?
A little under two years ago, I quit drinking and started writing on a blog to document my sobriety. It also became a place to stay grounded while traveling the world. I dove right into the truth by openly answering these questions.
Each post gained more attention from readers in my personal circle and in the recovery community. Many people who had known me for years had no idea that I’d ever struggled with addiction and eating disorders. The feedback was alarming.
It felt good to ask these questions out in the open—to say what everyone was thinking.
Writing about my experience with sobriety in real time, as it unfolded, was healing for me. But beyond that, it was healing for others too. After a year of writing, the natural progression of my blog came to a crossroads: what was the next step for me?
We were living in Tokyo for six months when I told my husband that I needed to go on a solo journey. I took a trip to Mt. Fuji with the intention of meditating and writing.
Maybe it was the act of going on a trip to one of the world’s holiest places—I don’t really know—but it proved something deep inside of me. I was no longer a person who was hanging on for dear life. I was no longer in survival mode or someone who was “just lucky to be here.” I felt there was a deeper purpose for me.
I never considered what the next level of being a writer really meant or looked like. But after this trip, I realized that the world was much larger and more available to me. What would happen if I committed to writing a poetry book? A novel? My life swelled with opportunity.
Shortly before this trip, I finished reading Things I Would Like to Do With You by Waylon Lewis. He and Elephant Journal spun on the outskirts of my radar. They intrigued me. So not long after my Mt. Fuji trip—when advertisements for Elephant Academy registration came around—everything seemed clear. I would commit to a program for writing with people who I trusted and admired.
I signed up for the audit program. It gave me confidence and direction on my own terms. I stopped using single-use plastics and mindless social media, and I started working on editorial submissions.
Receiving feedback from editors was exciting. Even hearing them reject me felt good! Because I was walking the walk toward something greater, it did not matter what the conversation was about. The fact that a conversation was happening at all, well, that was all that mattered.
Reading articles and watching videos week by week helped me speak to a community outside of what I knew. The beauty of this practice is that we start to say what we really mean. We write concisely and truthfully. And I was writing to an audience beyond my family and my sober community. I was starting conversations with potentially five million elephant readers—thrilling and a little terrifying—and I had the absolute honor of getting published more than twice in the magazine!
Reflecting on my experience this summer, I see a major shift in my writing and the way that I carry myself. The question is no longer whether I am good enough. In fact, the question is less about me altogether. It is less about swimming through my own story, trying to figure out my reason.
Instead, it is more about communicating and reaching others through my stories by asking the question: how can I be of benefit?
The audit program helped me calm the pangs of longing that we so often feel by learning to be of service. It helped me shift the tone of my voice and my work. This even crossed over into how I share myself with the ones I love the most. I’ve stopped asking if I am good enough so often.
I am more present.
And I feel free from the burden of self-analysis most of the time. This means that I am free to write and face the already difficult challenges that come along with writing without the “good enough” question.
The audit program was so helpful to me that I decided to sign up for the full apprenticeship this fall.
For anyone who wants to take a gradual leap into the next stage of their writing or artistry, the Elephant Academy Audit program is a great way to direct your attention to what matters the most.
It will ask you for your whole heart. It will ask you for words and ideas that connect to much larger conversation. And it might ask you to stop asking if you are good enough so that you can start believing it with everything that you do.