On New Year’s Day, I lost my dear friend and fellow writer, Anise Stevens, to cancer. She was 49.

Anise was diagnosed with breast cancer seven years ago, and even though surgery and chemo eliminated it, the cancer later metastasized in her liver, bones, and other internal organs. She fought a brave battle to keep going, in large part because of love for her young son.

Anise and I had met when we were both teaching composition at community college, but we each had writing dreams of our own. After she became sick, Anise decided to cut back on teaching in order to make room for some of her artistic ambitions. Even as she was sickened by her cancer and the harsh treatments, she launched a successful career as an arts and culture critic, building an impressive body of clips. When her pain and discomfort made writing difficult, she turned to painting as a form of self-expression. The last time I saw Anise, she was showing a portrait of her grandmother (pictured) at Mash Gallery in downtown Los Angeles, and it sold for over $1,000.

Anise’s death reminds me of the urgency to not delay our dreams, as we do not know how long our lives will be. If Anise had focused on her writing and art years earlier, I can only imagine how much more prolific she would have been. Her work during her illness underscores how much expressing oneself is our vital lifeblood.

For years, even as I’ve published articles and essays as a professional writer, and even as I’ve guided others to write books, I’ve delayed my own desire to write a book of my own. Anise’s death has been a wake-up call that I can delay this goal no longer. In 2019, I’ll (finally!) be working on a memoir that’s been brewing inside me for the past two decades.

And may Anise’s story be an example to you or anyone who’s been burning to get his or her story down on paper. Make writing it your New Year’s Resolution. If you need a guide, I can help!