157 days have passed since I embarked on writing exactly 101 words each day for 101 days. Now at the beginning of a new year, having had a break from posting on a daily basis, a quick look back on a few notes made shortly after finishing the project.
How was it?
Having a form into which daily experiences and thoughts could be placed was something I very much enjoyed. Even given the compact 101 word length, the process of researching links, checking information, and simply deciding what to include, added a depth to my daily thoughts and experiences that wouldn’t have occurred without the discipline of writing every day. Even with things I thought I knew quite well new aspects were waiting to be discovered and I’ve come to miss that daily feeling of consolidation since having completed the project.
What I don’t miss is the commitment to making something public on a daily basis for such an extended period of time – there were days on which I really wished not have to step into a public space. Should I embark on something similar in the future I’ll be sure to build in a weekly day of rest. Or consider building into the project that not everything need be made public, even though knowing that it will be public certainly does help sharpen one’s efforts.
Something else that helped sharpen the writing was the discipline of writing exactly 101 words. There were occasions on which I wished for a few extra words, but generally I found the length both useful and sufficient. At times infuriating (and time-consuming), but also fun.
While it also provided a frame for some sound-poetry experiments (more on that in a post to follow), I mostly ended up using the project as a kind of record of what was at the forefront of my mind on a particular day, whatever that might be. In a sense many of the entries are like mementoes of the days on which they were written, and I’m a little unsure to what extent some of the posts have meaning for others. But then the project was largely something undertaken for myself. Doing something on a daily basis, whether music, drawing or writing helps lower the boundary to getting going – the mental noise that accompanies starting an activity recedes into the background and the hands can get on with doing their thing.
Even given the approach of simply documenting the thoughts and experiences of the day, the most difficult part was often coming up with, or deciding on what to write about. It also took up a lot more time than anticipated. Writing 101 words can certainly be done within 15–20 minutes, but the process of deciding on a topic, possibly investigating or researching it to some degree, as well as deciding on, finding, and checking links can be quite time consuming. Add to that composing the tweet that announced each post and an hour has easily been filled. An at times tiring process when it needs to be started from scratch each day.
The sense in embarking on such a project during the first few months of our daughter’s life was something I sometimes questioned, especially since I didn’t want to write about that part of our lives. I was often tired, sometimes exhausted, by the time I reached to write my text in what was often the last hours of the day. Words sometimes seemed incredibly hard to find and string together in those sleep deprived states of mind. On the other hand it also helped ensure a creative space precisely within those first few months.
While the resources of time, energy, and attention may be stretched to an extreme within the first months of one’s child’s life, the approach of tackling things in small pieces can be found across our present day cultural landscape. Kai Brach, creator of the fine Offscreen magazine, kicked off the year with a link to one of his favourite interviews from 2015 – Elizabeth Gilbert on leading a creative life:
We live in a culture that says “passion, passion, passion”… but that can be hard to find when you’re tired and busy. Instead, ask yourself: “Is there anything that I’m even 1/8 of a percent curious about?” …If you can consistently do that, not just once or twice, but every single day, and be diligent about following your curiosity wherever it leads, you’ll find that creative spark.
It’s also an approach that Jeremy Keith favours when it comes to learning.
Document each small thing as you go instead of waiting until all those individual pieces click together.