My Yearlong Writing Project

So here we are at the very end of my yearlong writing adventure. Back in December of 2010 I challenged myself to write something every day. Of course, I had no story in mind, that’s far too grand a plan. Instead I took cues from Neil Peart, Michael Palin, Ernest Hemingway, Roff Smith and dozens of other intrepid souls and decided to sit down and write about the events of the day. It actually started off a lot harder than you might think. When I actually remembered to write something down it would be nothing more than a sentence or two encompassing the whole day. That’s not very useful. When it comes to the end of the year and I look over what I’ve done, how is that going to jog my memory? So I took a different tack. I went with the stream of consciousness method and simply wrote down everything and anything that came to mind. No editing, no grammar checking, no proofreading, no worries about coherence or meaning. The goal was simply to write, to force myself into the process and see what came out. Every day I had to sit down and write something. Obviously I did something during the day, what was it? I interacted with people, what did we talk about? Sure, it’s mundane and won’t appeal to anyone, but that’s not the point.

After 347 straight days of writing I’ve written over 450,000 words. I don’t know how many pages that works out to, but each entry is at least one page long, so we’re looking at 350 pages at least. I haven’t combined all the pages together because it would probably be an incoherent mess, but I will at the end of the year just to see what I come away with.

Journal writing has been a lot harder than I expected. In the beginning I would stare at the empty page trying to decide what to write. It was such a sea of white that it was overwhelming. I didn’t know where to begin. I never thought I would fill the page. I would write a sentence, say "that’s stupid", start another sentence, think that was stupid and repeat the process. I had to get past that. I decided to focus on one event at a time and write about it. For example, I would make note of going to lunch, who went, what I ordered, what I thought of it, what topics we talked about and all those routine little details. Boring stuff, but a starting point. I also chose to write it to myself. They say you need to pick your audience. In this case, the audience is me. No one will ever read this stuff, so I wrote it all with the intent that I would one day come back and read these notes to remember what I did on that day. Once I had those two pieces in place, writing became easier. I was able to chronicle the events of the day. I would drift into memories and remembrances. When I bought my Rush tickets back in January for the summer show, it brought back all sorts of memories from previous shows, of the albums and when I listened to them, of the books of Neil’s I’ve read, of buying their music on tape, then CD, and now in MP3 format and all sorts of other things. I realized that happened routinely. My opinions, memories, thoughts, ideas and plans would all make their way into my writing. Soon it took on a life of its own and I had no problem filling the page. I originally struggled to write 200 words worth of material. Now, I hit 1,000 words and jump to the next page in about 30 minutes. I look at the blank page as a new canvas just waiting for me to fill it up with pearls of wisdom.

So what did I learn from all this? A lot. I’ll go into more detail tomorrow.

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