But at my back I always hear / Time's winged chariot hurrying near . . .
~ Andrew Marvell, from his poem, “To His Coy Mistress”
I stopped posting to the 365 Project because I just didn’t want to do it anymore. The Project felt like a nag with a whine: “Have you done your post yet today? What do you mean you can’t remember? You have a job to do, young lady. Now do it!” There were nights when I would go to bed and before I turned out the lights, I’d have a startled thought: Did I post to my project today? My heart would race a bit. I’d check in with Hug:
Me: Did I post today?
Me: Are you sure?
Me: What was it about?
Hug: You don’t remember?
I posted for 249 days (I think I missed twice—once when I was sick, so I posted two in one day and once when I forgot). If my goal had been to post for 249 days straight, I won. My goal was to post for 365 days, no matter what, but stopping at 249 doesn’t mean I lost. It doesn’t mean anything except that I learned
- What it means to me to write daily
- How I feel about writing daily
- How to let go and not sweat the plodding posts
During those 249 days, I finished the last of my freelance editing jobs and decided not to take on more work. That was a huge decision, one that led to more insights about what I want to do with my days and nights. I continued to write weekly with my writing partner, Cousin. I wrote blog posts every day all the way through a road trip to California to visit sisters. I wrote about snow and heat and the changing seasons. Sometimes I was on a roll; mostly I was not.
I’m reading a wonderful book right now called The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith. In it she talks about writing with intent as opposed to writing exercise to random prompts. I’ve done a lifetime of the latter and very little of the former. When I write with Cousin, we use prompts and we write with intent: I’m filling out the stories of May Belle Rooney and the Dickman Sisters. The intent of the 365 Project was to write daily for a year. I can, of course, continue to write daily for a year and not post the results to a blog.
When I write with Cousin or write from the blue room, I write by hand: pen on paper in a notebook. When I post to my blog, I open a file in Scrivener and write, proofread, post. There were days when I just didn’t want to open my computer, days when I felt an aversion to the technical world, days when I wanted to just play with my fountain pens, swirl a new ink color in its bottle and fill a pen with it, write a letter, start a new notebook.
Last night I was looking for something in a bottom cabinet. I bent over, reached toward the back, didn’t find what I wanted, stood up—and yelped with pain. I spent the rest of the evening in my recliner, the only position that didn’t make me wince. Today I’ll see my chiropractor, who will do her magic and allow me to go up and down stairs like a normal person. This story is not a non sequitur. We go along as if everything will stay the same, as if we have all the time in the world. We do not. We have this minute. Right this minute I am writing into a Scrivener file from a laptop computer—which is on my lap. My back aches a little. Any plans I had for last night were shifted to accommodate pain—all because I bent over to see what was in a bottom cabinet.
When I lived in Santa Cruz and was commuting by bus over the mountain to teach at San Jose State, I was looking out the window one day and thinking about a character in a story I was writing. This character understood that we spend the first half of our lives collecting things and the second half letting go of things. I was about 48, right at the peak of that curve, still accumulating but also beginning to let go. In the last eight years, I quit my cube job; took on freelance work in the tech world, quit that; worked as a grant writer, stopped that; edited non-fiction books, finally let that go. Accumulate, dissipate.
That’s what I want to know: what’s next? What will I choose now that I’ve let go of everything I called “work,” anything that felt like I had to do it. I write with Cousin because I want to. I write in my notebook because I want to. And I used to blog when I felt like I wanted to. I’m returning to that.
I'm happy that I set out on this exercise. It was fun until it wasn't. Now I think I'll make a sandwich, read more of Cloud Atlas, and go get my back put back in whack.