For one year, every single day, whether all at once or spaced out, I have written at least 750 words. Every day.
For a year.
It started, like most things, as a recommendation from my friend. Mike had a found a website, 750words.com, and told me to look into it. About 20 minutes later, I had flown through my first day’s writing and emailed him my thoughts.
“That isn’t how it works,” he told me. “It’s supposed to be private.”
“Not for me,” I responded. My words were passionate. Powerful. I did not want them in solitary confinement, never to see the eyeballs of a reader. Especially since I knocked out 750 words in the form of an email to my friend.
Most days never get seen, however, as they are not intended to be anything except my journal. But some do have value, hence this website.
The end of March was now days away and the beginning of April included the next month’s challenge. “Write every day for an entire month.”
Sure, I think I can do it. “Tina, make sure I do this.”
“Did you write today?” is still asked every so often, as the one-month challenge has now consumed twelve.
In the past year, I have written a total of 328,397 words on 750words.com. An overwhelming majority is garbage. Often times, I actually questioned if my writing was getting worse with this exercise, as I would frequently force entries for the day. Too many times, including this week, I have written useless sentences such as, “I have no idea what to write so I will just write about not knowing what to write.”
18 words of nonsense, serving no purpose but to fill space en route to an arbitrary goal. Yet I do it all the time. How could that possibly make me a better writer?
At least, for a long time.
I am of the “I can do that, too” personality. I see someone do something that looks cool, and I believe I can do it as well. Ski jumping in the Olympics was one of these moments. Although I never actually had a desire to do so. That’s the difference between “what works” for me and what doesn’t: desire.
I wanted to learn guitar. So I taught myself. I wanted to learn to play piano. So I taught myself. I wanted to learn how to write so I could get my opinions out in to the world. So I taught myself…writing? That one didn’t quite fit.
I will never forget the first essay that I completely bombed. I remember hand-writing (printing, even though “script is what you need to know in the future”) my essay on looseleaf paper, and actually thinking to myself, “I never do well on essays, maybe I should try something new.” I wrote sentences like, “I’m not saying this, but…” and “that’s not to say…”. I had no other options. I was out of ideas as to how to please my teacher.
Actually, I don’t remember if I failed or not. I was probably asked to rewrite it. Or something like that. But it’s more dramatic for this story if I failed. And then the paper was ultimately burned in front of the class.
What really happened was that my mom questioned what I was thinking when I wrote it. I told her the truth. I knew all the rules of the English language, but writing essays was a chore. Writing for a grade, to please a teacher, was a puzzle to me. I felt how others have described word problems in math.
Although I believed this had no solution.
I gave up trying. I struggled in every Social Studies and History class from that point on. But I aced English.
It wasn’t just that “learning English” included rules such as “I before E, except after C”, it was that the rules could not be broken. In writing, the rules were just as strict. But only in the textbooks.
“How could J.D. Salinger get away with that?” I asked myself. Not the use of the curse, but the spelling of the phrase. Writing, in the “real world”, was nothing like in school. It was very much like script versus print. One was a facade. The other won literary acclaim.
“This is fantastic,” my mom said, as she read the creative passage I had written for school years later. I knew it was good, too. While I was writing, and afterwards. I knew I had written something of value.
Probably because I bent the rules.
Because I learned that I could start a paragraph with “because”, especially if it has impact. And write in fragments. And change directions without warning.
I now struggle, not with the writing, but with calling myself a writer. I believe I am, but I also believe that is an insult to those out there who make a living by putting their fingers to the keyboard. In the same vein, am I a pianist because I can play Konstantine?
I guess so. I guess I am those things. I worked hard to be able to do either, write or play the most beautifully constructed song ever created. I practiced.
That’s what my daily exercise of writing 750 words became. Practice. Not a chore. A baseball field with a never ending supply of pitches and fielding opportunities. If I wanted to ramble on about how much I love my daughter, I could. If I wanted to write random narrative passages, I could. And I could toy around with anything. Sentence structure. Flow. Plot.
Paragraph length. Anything.
But the real appeal for me was never the practice. I could write whenever I wanted and still feel like I was getting the exercise (even though that was naive and false, as I needed the crippling fear of possibly missing a day’s writing).
I now have a backlog of my words and thoughts.
The concept that, in 100 days, I will have at least 75,000 words (of anything) was too great to ignore. I, right now, have over three hundred thousand words. My words. An online journal that, through a large majority of fluff, contains some of my deepest insight. Not necessarily secrets, as I don’t find value in writing them as much as I do hiding them (and I don’t really hide many anyway), but in my thoughts.
Thoughts, passages, narratives. All by my own hand, from which I could pull anything if I ever needed.
Not that I would ever reach this level of… anything… but I would kill for the opportunity to read the inner most thoughts and workings of Andrew McMahon, Mark Hoppus, Tom DeLonge, and Drew Karpyshin. I would pay an obscene amount of money to sit with Derek Jeter for 15 minutes and pick his brain about baseball. That’s all I’d want. 15 minutes.
Imagine one year of thoughts.
Who knows? Maybe, one day, someone will want more of my thoughts. More of my words. By then, I will have millions of them to offer. By then, I will be better.
Because I will be practicing.
Every. Single. Day.