State of the Union

Alright, so perhaps that title is a bit grandiose for what I actually intend to do in this post, but apparently these days they’re letting just about anyone deliver a State of the Union address, so bear with me. The month of January has now come to an end, and I thought I’d use today to report in on how these first 31 days of blogging have gone, at least from my perspective—feel free to add yours! In comments and e-mails, I’ve gotten a number of questions from you, and I’ll do my best to answer those here:

Are you writing for some sort of assignment, or just for fun?

This project is definitely just for fun, and I assure you that I already have enough assignments without giving myself another one! On the other hand, the necessity of posting every day (of which more below) does lend some notion of duty to the whole thing, in the sense that I’d like to push myself to accomplish the goal I’ve set for myself.

How do you maintain consistency?

Here, I’m assuming that consistency refers to frequency and not theme, since my overall theme is broad enough that it’s difficult to fall outside its range. As for frequency, for me it’s simply a question of discipline and process. There are some things we all do every day because we don’t really have a choice—like brushing our teeth—and other items we add to our daily checklist because we choose to—like running in the morning, or doing the daily crossword puzzle. For me, writing falls into this second category, and I’m very serious about sticking with it. From the standpoint of my goal, this year is like a pane of glass: throw a rock at any point on its surface (i.e., miss one day), and the whole thing will be shattered.

What got you thinking about writing this way?

A number of factors came together for me in early December of last year. First, all the way through high school and college, I was constantly writing—usually academically, yes, but always creatively. As a humanities major, every paper was an opportunity to explore literature and use language in ways that I found moving and hoped would be interesting to my evaluator. As a law student, I found that nearly all of that opportunity for creativity was gone. I suppose you can make a creative legal argument in a memo or brief, but overall the atmosphere in the legal academy is not favorable to individuality. At the same time that I felt this need for a creative outlet, I was also looking for something to give me a little direction for the upcoming year and I was looking for somewhere to go with a number of ideas that had been bouncing around in my head for some time. Everything came tumbling out in this blog!

How did you come up with your theme?

Some of my friends would tell you that the concept actually went through several reincarnations before arriving at its present state. I actually did spend a fair amount of time trying to think of an approach that would be interesting to others. I figured I didn’t have time to cook and write every day—and besides, that’s already been done. I considered anonymously profiling a different friend every day, until one of mine pointed out that friends may look unfavorably upon that and strangers may not care. Eventually, I decided to steer away from gimmicks and go with a broader theme—the little things I notice from day to day—because I really believe that many others probably notice these things, too.

What’s your writing process? How long does it take?

Every morning, I wake up at 6:30, take a shower, and sit down to write. On weekends, I wake up somewhat later, but the sequence remains the same. I write in the morning for three reasons: first, it’s the one thing I need to make sure I get done each day, so I don’t want to leave it for last; second, it’s the one time of day that the phone never rings; and third, early mornings really lend themselves well to writing—the glow of the sun creeps into the room,  the looming reality of responsibilities can be put off until later in the day, and the hours ahead seem full of potential. I usually write for 50-60 minutes without stopping, then use another 15 minutes or so to revise and check for errors. It’s important for me to keep the time manageable so that the process remains fun and doesn’t become a burden.

Do you ever write in advance? Do you have a stockpile of posts?

I do write two days in advance, so that whatever is written on a Monday morning will be posted first thing on Wednesday (12:01 AM). So, for example, the post you’re reading now was actually written on Friday morning. I do this just in case something serious arises and I’m prevented from writing for a day or two—but it frequently confuses me as to what day it really is! However, I don’t stockpile posts; at any given time, I’m only two days ahead, because I don’t want to give myself an excuse to slip out of the routine. It keeps me honest.

How do you generate ideas?

This is by far the most difficult part of the whole process. Generally, if given a topic, I would have no problem coming up with 1,000 words of material. Sadly, that’s a big “if.” Because it’s so hard to think of unique and interesting topics, I do keep a stockpile of those. I have a little black notebook that I carry with me pretty much everywhere so that I can jot down whatever comes to my mind (my ability to remember anything has been utterly devastated by law school). I’ve gotten some ribbing about the Moleskine (see, for example, Stuff White People Like #122), but it works for me.

Here, I should also include a plug: any time you think of something worth paying attention to, do me a favor and send it my way! I’ll be glad you did, and will always give credit where it’s due.

What’s your favorite post so far? Which has been the most popular?

My personal favorite thus far has been “Honk if you believe in Pluto” on January 9; this could be because it was the most fun to write, or perhaps because the “loss” of Pluto is something my generation seemed to uniquely experience. As for the most popular, it depends on your calculus. The day with the most readers was January 13, with “Room to Read,” but the post that has received the highest number of clicks overall is “I feel like…” from January 27. I’ll spare you the numbers; I obsess over them enough as it is.

Is the worst over?

At first, I thought that establishing a routine and sticking with it would make January the most difficult of all twelve months. Now, though, I’m not so sure. The academic pace is picking up, making time a factor, and a couple of impending vacations will make some bulk pre-writing necessary. Often, you don’t lose steam until much later in the race. For example, I have nightmares of running completely out of ideas sometime in mid-October. This is why I hope that continuing to write will generate a community of readers willing to offer advice and suggestions—so if you like what you’ve read so far, do us all a favor and tell a friend!

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1 Comment

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One response to “State of the Union

  1. Ruth Ryshke

    You truly amaze me – my most unique intelligent brilliant tenor buddy I will ever have.

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