Keeping Connections Through Letters and Art

Earlier today, I wrote and published the following creativity prompt on our CCAI and Smash365 websites:

Today’s Free Creativity Prompt:

I have several friends who have created or participated in mail projects that have been both artistic and inspiring. Some of these projects are Laura Shovan’s Poetry Postcard Project, Mary Cartledgehayes’ MailArt Project, as well as Post Secret and Geist. The one thing that these projects have in common is using writing and art to share a deeper and more genuine part of who we really are. It seems like most of the writing we do in social media is more immediate, somewhat superficial, and emotion-based.

This is different. These are notes and letters crafted with a deeper meaning, purpose, and intent.

Consider all of the different ways we send positive messages to others: facial expressions, body language, even gestures. What if we shared positive messages with notes and words, and then followed those words with genuine actions?

After watching this wonderful short film and visiting some of the sites I’ve linked to above, write or create a positive note or message to someone, and send it along. Paper is best — the gift of a handwritten or drawn letter is far too rare these days.

Then, follow up with another note or, if possible, a phone call or even a visit. Your air mail could go a long way and really make a difference in the lives of others.

(If you cannot see the embedded video above, please click on the following link: Paperman.)

I have always been in love with letter writing. Last year, when I found a few extra notecards in my writing space at home, I enjoyed several short letter-writing campaigns with others around the world. They were wonderful, and I will resume writing them in the next few weeks.

I can’t say enough about the power of the creative note sent to another person. The lives of both the writer and the reader are enriched with a deeper touch that social media just cannot provide. It’s that one-to-one direct connection that reminds us all: there is something bigger here inside and around all of us.

Beginning Our Own Creative Correspondence

I would love to begin or resume a creative correspondence with you. My address is Rus VanWestervelt, P.O. Box 9738, Baltimore, MD 21284.

If you are looking for something to write about or create in your note, we can always begin with this (anonymously or signed):

What is your greatest wish for you, for others, for this world? 

If you supply a return address, I will write back. Let’s keep connected through letters and art, all. It’s one of the greatest gifts we can give one another.


Daily Writing Inspiration AND Providing Hurricane Sandy Relief

Today’s Smash365 creativity prompt, SPRINT, provides a quick tip to writers who are working on their November novels for NaNoWriMo. More importantly, it also includes a special offer that helps the families and animals who have been affected directly by Hurricane Sandy.

My creativity partner over at Smash365, Cara, has created 50,000 Words Or Bust, a 98-page ebook of writing and photo prompts for inspiration during the month of November, when over 300,000 writers are attempting to write a novel in a month for NaNoWriMo.

When Hurricane Sandy hit, she started looking for a way to help people who are still without homes, electricity, food, clothes, water. As an animal lover and avid supporter of animal rights, Cara decided to donate ALL of the proceeds from the sale of this ebook to The Humane Society of the United States for their Disaster Relief Fund.

Please take a moment to check out this invaluable resource for writers; for just $5, you get 98 inspirations to cheer you on in your writing, and you also provide some immediate relief to those who are struggling just to find a meal in the next few hours.

50,000 Words Or Bust. For $5, you can make a difference in your writing and, more importantly, in the lives of so many others.

Why I Wrote — And Published — Cold Rock

I am a writer, photographer, educator, and speaker. But more than any of those things individually or together, I am a strong advocate for all of us to accept the challenges we face daily and do our best to live an inspiring and fulfilling life.

I wrote and published Cold Rock because I believe in sharing this desire to live fully with as many people as I can. Everything about my writing, teaching, photography, and workshopping is meant to inspire others to recognize the beauty in living in the present; it is imperative that we embrace our individuality and be confident with who we are.

This is my latest book, first published in December 2011 as a print book. It quickly became an inspired reading shared across the country. I am really excited to release it as an eBook and share it with an even larger audience. It’s available on Amazon here, and I priced it as low as I possibly could (it’s just $2.99) to give everybody an opportunity to read it.

Many of the subjects in Cold Rock deal with really tough issues — bullying, sex abuse, depression and even suicide. I wrote about these topics because they are out there — not exclusively in the churches, or in our neighborhoods, or in our schools. They are in all of these places, and so many more. We need to have the courage to stand up to these atrocities, help those in need, and find the strength within ourselves to believe in Love, to believe in each other, to believe in living an inspired and fulfilling life.

It wasn’t easy to write about these topics, and I don’t mean to single out any single group (such as religious leaders) or mental illness (such as depression); rather, these are representatives of the larger issues we face every day. They are in our past, and they often reveal themselves in our present; we need to do our best to combat them with strength, self-confidence, and love.

Some of the incidents in Cold Rock did happen to me, on various levels. It was especially hard to write about them, but the driving force in me to do so was to open the door for others to do the same: find the courage, confront the obstacles and the atrocities, and live a fulfilling and loving life.

Many of the things I do today support this mission. I run a nonprofit group called, which is an outreach program for teens and young adults struggling with anxiety and depression. is one of my latest projects. It is a culmination of decades of research and writing in spirituality and living life fully. My creative partner, Cara Moulds, and I write daily creativity prompts to help others just like you and me SMASH our fears and live inspired lives. Our prompts are challenging, but they are also free. And they always will be. We hope they provide individuals the chance to experience their journey through life with passion and happiness.

Finally, there’s, an ever-transforming journal of literary advocacy focused on publishing cutting-edge creative nonfiction that tackles taboo issues like the ones I confront in Cold Rock. I encourage you strongly to get involved at your local level and advocate for fairness, equality, and social justice.

I received my MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Goucher College, and I am available for speaking engagements and workshops in writing (specializing in journaling and writing memoir), photography, publishing, and inspired living. Follow me daily at, and feel free to contact me directly at

I believe in you. I believe in the power of Love. I believe we all have a chance to make the choices that will change this world. Contact me. Let’s get started on making a difference within ourselves first, and then with the rest of our communities in general.


Back in the Bliss

photo: rus vanwestervelt, 23 october 2011, river chase farm, aldie, va

Well, I did it again, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

Not only did I leave Facebook and Twitter, I stopped my usual rounds of catching up on the latest football news, rankings, and predictions on the local news sites, not to mention ESPN, SI, Foxsports, and other national sports sites.

Finally, I feel like I can breathe again.

Not that I don’t miss chatting with my closer friends on Facebook, I do. But I imagine that, in the coming days and weeks (and it’s already started to happen with some friends), I will be finding other ways to catch up with them.

You know. In person. Face to face. Real time.

I don’t knock the social networks. They serve a purpose that can be both fun and meaningful for all kinds of relationships. But I know that, for me to be fully present for my family and still focus on my writing and photography, something had to give.

Already, I am writing more (I am here as well, which says a lot), my focus is better when spending time with others, and I am not glued to my phone or my computer.

None of these are any surprise to me. This is my third or fourth separation from Facebook, and each time I experience the same bliss.

Why even go back, then? Why return to the social-media time suckers that compromise the very things that bring me the greatest joy and allow me to live a most-balanced life?

I have no idea.

Maybe this time I won’t. I know that my book sales might suffer, and I might not have as many people see some of the photos that I have taken. As well, I know such a move goes against every marketing strategy that’s been devised in the last three years for artists who are trying to launch some kind of name for him or herself.

But my time with my family is too valuable to sacrifice for social networking and trying to “make it” as a writer and artist. I write and I take photos because it is in me; it is a part of who I am, and I cannot stop it any faster than I can stop breathing (thanks, Lacey, for that so many years ago). What is NOT a part of me is the whole selling of my work and playing some kind of game that gets me running with the creative consultants and gurus of the craft. Not when it comes at the cost of sacrificing time with my wife and children.

God bless the social gurus and network marketers. We need them, and they help so many undo the myriad blocks that have kept thousands and thousands from living a more creative, inspired life. I have family members and friends who are burning incredible new virtual paths in the connections they are making. These people are changing lives, and we are better off for their tireless energy and spirit.

Me, though? I need to do that networking at a distance. I will let my words and my images speak for me, and I will never turn down an invitation to converse about the things we love. But I cannot sell you me using social media as a device to further my passions. I just can’t.

So, you’ll see me around here more frequently. I’m still writing for Write Anything, I’m still working hard with my creative partner Cara Moulds at Cool Blue Souls on our daily Smash365 prompts and book reading club, and I’m wrapping up my book Cold Rock for release before the end of the year. I am looking for new venues for my photography, and I have a full line of competitions and deadlines for shorter writing submissions that I’m sending out on a biweekly basis. All of this is possible with the focus that is returning, thanks to my break-up with social media.

I’ll see you here and other places online and in print as well, but most importantly, I’d like to see you in person. Let’s hold on to the very things we should never stop cherishing: the embracing of life’s fragility, hand in hand, as we go along our way.