Before I launched my 365-Day writing project, I came up with a 13-page (10 point font, 1.5-spaced) list of ideas. In the early days of the project, this numbered list guided me; I’d even used the strikethrough feature to cross out the topics I wrote about. As the year progressed and the calendar pages flipped faster than the leaves fell off the trees, I couldn’t keep up with the old stories on the list because new narratives were consistently presenting themselves for write-ups
It was easier to write about something which happened today than to dig deep into my subconscious to recall a story from childhood or adolescence; something which helped define me, shape me, or gave me membership into a “life club.” Whatever crazy shit happens to us as humans, the “life club” concept is designed to help us feel like we’re not alone; we can always find someone who can relate, no matter how ludicrous our situation or experience may seem.
As I hit the 300-day mark of my project, my husband said, “You have to go over your list because those last 66 days are going to sneak up on you and you’ll run out of time to tell the stories you really want to write about.”
When I compiled the initial list of memories, I squeezed my brain like a fist. My pseudo table of contents was like the fresh-squeezed orange juice I get at the cafe; it’s overpriced and comes in the smallest juice glass imaginable. I savored every story on that list; every hurdle I overcame in the name of a story (or club membership).
The more I wrote, the more I felt like I was Lucy in the I Love Lucy episode where there are too many chocolates coming down the conveyor belt and she can’t pack them as fast as they’re advancing down the pike. Life was once again spitting out stories faster than I could transcribe them.
But the original list flashed in the back of my mind; how do I hurry up and tell the rest of the stories before the year is up? Once again I’m channeling Alexander Hamilton (or actually Lin-Manuel Miranda) and I feel like I’m running out of time.
Writing every single day (320 days in a row!) has been one of the most challenging things I’ve set out to do. Not because I found it physically difficult to strike the keys and not because recalling gut-wrenching, honest stories made me vulnerable. It’s not because it has taken away hundreds of hours I could have spent with my family (or TV) – and not even because it has left my house an utter mess, especially in light of a flood.
Writing every single day has been demanding because it is something I “have to do” every day; it becomes another chore, another item on the “things to do list” du jour. It takes longer than brushing my teeth and eating a meal (sometimes all three) and won’t yield an immediate result to pay my bills or fill my belly. Most of all, it’s an additional “have to do” ON TOP of everything else I’m already doing (working, running a small business, mother to 2 kids, 3 cats). As soon as I hit publish on one essay, my mind is on the hamster wheel thinking of tomorrow’s piece.
Up until this point in my writing life, I have not struggled with traditional writer’s block. I write in order to release, to share, to expel it from my gut so it doesn’t become rancid and cause me resentful reflux. With this project, I’ve acquired a book’s worth of lessons. One is: you cannot attach too much emotion to any particular essay; tomorrow is another day, another piece, another opportunity to write it better.
The other lesson: life is your writing prompt. Every day, I step out of the house and shake hands with life and get the opportunity to live a story, join a club.
The most important lesson (of course, I may not have had it yet with 46 days to go) has been to crush the notion that I am not a writer. I will pulverize that notion so hard and obliterate it from the rubbish of my mind.