I’m the type to count my “didn’t do’s” rather than my “do’s.” I’ll faster point out the one item I didn’t cross off the list rather than the dozen I did. I have a pattern of minimizing successes and negating worth. The first month after I launched my 365 writing project, each essay I wrote felt like an arduous attempt; I cut my heart open and bled a piece of my soul onto the page to be judged. 300 days down the pike, it no longer felt so intense; I spit the words out, knowing tomorrow is a new day. It’s not atypical for an artist to fluctuate dramatically throughout the course of a project, between thinking “this is the greatest thing ever” or “this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.”
At the beginning of the year, I proclaimed I would get a “365″ tattoo if I successfully finished. [Note this is a leap year and I should rebrand the whole thing as “366,” but I digress.] I wish the November 2016 Me could go back to January 2016 Me to tell her, “What’s the big deal? Some people write every single day OF THEIR WHOLE LIVES. Now that’s an accomplishment.”
As much as time can be a salve, it can also serve as a lubricant and an accelerator. Any athlete knows performance becomes easier with practice. Two miles around the track, two miles in the pool, two pages in the till. Occasionally the project feels pseudo-performance art because it happens every day, on display, as a writer reacts to real life interjecting her story telling plans. The end will come not because the story is finished, but because I will stop telling it at day 365.
While it started as a writing exercise, the Life Clubs concept has evolved to be, part science experiment, part social experiment, and part mental analysis. I feel like I’m telling a 42-year-old coming of age story, day by day, on a blog. I should appreciate and applaud that there was nothing now there are words (over 219,679 so far) I’ve created through a journey of self-discovery.
I’ve had hundreds of conversations with my husband which begin with, “If nothing else comes from the project, at least…” I’ve never trained for a marathon, but I’m at the 22.9 mile equivalent and I imagine by this point most runners don’t say, “no big deal, I’ve got this,” nor do I imagine they think, “what did I get out of doing this?” or perhaps some of them may be thinking “I could have channeled this into something more profitable.”
Self-doubt isn’t a quality I admire in others and I’m the first to hand-slap it out of friends’ mouths. I’m a cheerleader using words as pompoms and yet I’m the loudest when it comes to scrupulous introspection. How is that a “life club?” Perhaps this is the most popular club of all.
We exist in a world pulsing with imagery of pretty perfection and we inevitably compare ourselves, albeit unrealistically, to a fairytale ending for every scenario. Our brains have been rewired to assess how we measure up compared to these false expectations and there is no career immune; writers, lawyers, physicians, all land in the self-doubt club at some point. So, today, I’m going to forgive myself for this useless skepticism, knowing full well this is not the last time.
Tomorrow I’m back to cheerleading.