So for some of you who’ve been around on this blog for a while, you’ve heard me gush about this particular writing community from time to time. The Real LJ Idol can be found on livejournal.com, at therealljidol.livejournal.com. It is, perhaps, my favorite community on that particular website. It is a sprawling community, one that brings amateur and professional writers alike to its fold. Right now, it’s in between seasons, with the final season slated to take place in early 2014. 

I want to tell you all (and the world) how much I love LJI. How LJI has even changed my life, and produced irreplaceable friendships, and also a level of confidence in myself and my writing that I never quite had, before.

I’ve been writing for a long time. I have notebooks with my scrawling handwriting in them that date back to the late 90’s, when I was roughly 9-10 years old. I’ve posted fanfiction on fanfiction.net since the age of 12. But there was a time where I stopped writing. Most notably, it was after I got married. My whole marriage, I struggled with writing. It wasn’t as fun. I had ideas, but I couldn’t quite break the block. I was depressed.

And then, my ex-wife and I moved from North Carolina, back to our home state. And we were both unemployed, and looking for work, and we were living with my father. It was around that time, back in October 2011, that I discovered this writing community. A writing  competition, with reality show-esque twists like Survivor? Sure, I thought to myself, I’m game.

The commitment? Write one entry, based on a prompt given by the wonderful (and terrifying) host, Gary. Each piece was to be completed within 3-4 days. Sometimes, we got multiple prompts to do over longer periods of time. Sometimes, we’d get an Open Topic, which we all then would proceed to Flip the Fuck Out, because wtf does Gary have up his sleeve? Better bring our A Game! 

It’s because of this community that I found the commitment to write on a weekly basis again. And then on a daily basis and pursuing my own projects with renewed vigor, once I got voted out at 30 Weeks (and made it to the top 30 out of some 300+ contestants — not bad, if I do say so myself). It forced me to grow as a writer. To experiment. To learn how to tell non-fiction in a way that was compelling, that had a point, that didn’t feel like an LJ entry. 

This is a writing competition you simply cannot forget. The struggle, the pain, the cursing of Gary for some really absurdly weird prompts. The camaraderie you develop with your fellow contestants. I met my best friend Sarah through LJI Season 8. We started talking as the season was heading towards the end, and she made it to 4th place.

LJI restored my faith in myself as a writer. Made me realize that yes, writing is my life’s blood. I need it to breathe. I need it to cope. And I was competing in Exhibit B (a mini-season) when my ex-wife told me she wanted to end our marriage. It was Idol that carried me through those rough few months immediately following the news. Idol that kept me writing when all I wanted to do was quit, and give up, and never write again and never feel again. 

I implore you all, when I link the Sign Up Sheet, to get a livejournal account. To give Idol a spin, just like I did. It may be a writing marathon, a test of your skills and your ability to pull something out of your ass when there’s no time and no ideas, but it is, hands down, the best writing competition. It is the first of its kind, and no others can quite compete.

Thank you, LJI, for shaping me into who I am today. For shaping me into the writer I am today. For introducing me to wonderful, amazing people who enrich my life and make me a better person. For the support I found when my ex-wife severed emotional ties with me. 

And thank you, Gary, for pulling it all together for us every year, for veterans and noobs alike. This labor of love has done wonders for me, as I’m sure it’s done wonders for others, as well. ❤

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