One Year of 750 Words

One year.

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?

It didn’t.

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.

Failed.

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.

Rules.

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.

March 22, 2014

6:30am.

I refused to look at the clock, knowing the time would be earlier than anything I wanted to see. Any number starting with 4, 5, or 6 would be trouble. It was a 6. The worst of the options.

4:00 would have been fine. The game would just be starting but I knew it would be early enough to fall back asleep. Even 5:00 would have afforded me the same luxury. But not 6:30.

I pretended like I would fall back asleep. Like there was no baseball game going on right now on the other side of the globe. Like my intentions of drifting to dreamland would deliver me there. It didn’t.

It delivered me downstairs. On my couch.

I had set my DVR to record everything on the MLB Network from 4:00am until 7:30am. I set my alarm for 8:00, knowing that I would never make it there. In fact, last night, before I fell asleep, I said as much.

“I just hope I don’t wake up too excited.”

Two baseball games. Both regular season games. A live fantasy baseball draft. The second (yes, second) round of the NCAA Tournament. A Saturday. 60 degrees.

I woke up too excited.

Early wakeups are the norm now. When Tina was pregnant, everyone told me to enjoy my sleep, since I would no longer have it when she was born. Naturally, in a cruel twist of fate, I wake up earlier than my child every day. Of course, I’m lucky that she sleeps so late.

But what good is luck if nothing fortunate comes from it?

I have written (and will post in the near future) many times about my aversion to sleep. I even had this conversation with my friends last night. Sleep is no longer a luxury. It’s an annoyance.

I did get through a few innings (with fast forwarding) before rolling over on the couch and…I think… falling asleep for about a half hour. The game was on pause when I turned around and I refused to look at the clock so I don’t actually know. I hate the clock. The clock is the vehicle that drives my lack of sleep.

I finally awoke from my phantom nap to the call from my daughter upstairs. Minutes later, she is sitting on my lap, reading a book, listening to her new favorite Andrew McMahon song (Me and the Moon – she loves the part, “I am a butterfly…”).

And baseball is on our television. Life is perfect.

I do not sleep. I do not want to. I want to get excited about things. I want to look forward to tomorrow so much that I cannot sleep tonight.

I want to be awake to enjoy everything, whether I am alone for a few hours or with my family. I want to wake up early and go to bed late.

6:30am? Fine. It means I get an extra hour and a half to enjoy today.

And today will be great.

March 11, 2014

I believe today’s feeling of hope has to be as simple as positive reinforcement. I wrote (and posted) yesterday’s words out of fear and disappointment that I had let myself down. It was not exaggerated but it was exposing. So much so that I had to question if it was worth showing publicly.

I still have doubts about it, mainly because it paints me in one of two lights. According to how the post is interpreted, I’m either a manic depressive or extremely egotistical. I don’t even hope I fall in between the two. I just hope I’m neither.

Starting mariomergola.com, therefore, is nothing more than another outlet. It is not intended to be a blog. It is not intended to be updated every day. Or ever. I may never write on it again. The only thing I will continue to do is write. For no one but myself.

I have now written at least 750 words every day consecutively for almost one year. Shout out to 750words.com for being the inspiration and vessel for my words. The anniversary of this will come later this month.

Most of the time, I write garbage. There are times when I can think of nothing else to put on paper (or screen) besides the goings-on in my life, be it fantasy sports, video games, or random thoughts that appear and disappear in the middle of the night. In essence, it has become my journal. I am now Doug from my childhood. Tina is Patty Mayonnaise.

Throughout this writing, a few gems have appeared. Every once in a while, I would like to share them. Almost every single time, they are underdeveloped and don’t fit anywhere. The simple answer to post them on Facebook, but it doesn’t quite work that way. Long “status updates” don’t make sense in blog format, especially when taken out of context. This was the genesis of making some of my “journal” entries a little more public.

And what happens when I want to write about sports? I spent an entire day breaking down the American League Central division this year (to myself) and why I think the White Sox and Twins will surprise people (specifically Chicago). What do I do with that information? Tweet about “watch out for the ChiSox in ’14!” Maybe. But again, out of context.

I tried this before, and failed. (That should actually be my motto, as it has been written countless times in the past 350 days of consecutive writings…) I started a website of random blogs and, like many things I do, changed directions and had to start over. This will be attempt three. But again, “this” is not “that”.

This is not a blog. It is not even a journal. It is the only way I can share some thoughts. It will barely be edited. It will contain no pictures. The site itself will eventually become a host for the work I have done (videos, drawings, writings, etc.) only because I want a centralized location that I know won’t change going forward.

I urge you not to read most of what I write here. It serves no purpose and will provide no literary benefits. It will only provide an outlet for my thoughts. The only reason some will now be public, the only difference between this site and 750words.com, is for me to break through my own barriers.

I may not even link most of what I write, unless it has a direct audience or purpose. I will not obsess over updating this, or make any effort to stay on track. For the past year, this is how I have written. And it has made me feel good, despite the content at times.

I will not update this site. I will not worry about its maintenance. I will simply write and share what I believe deserves to be outside my mind. This will be my challenge. I will do this and only focus on writing.

For me.