Sunday, December 31, 2023
The denouement of the Word Project is upon us. And now that we have reached the place where the sidewalk ends, this moon-bird is about to rest from her flight.
Before the street begins, I thought I’d take a minute to cool in the peppermint wind and reflect on what this project was about and whether anything actually came of it.
I can tell you what didn’t come of it. What didn’t come of it was a royalty check. David Sedaris gets to pluck random sentences and a few paragraphs that he wrote in July of 1977 and stick them into a book with a bunch of other random sentences and paragraphs from other days in 1983 and 1998 and 2002 and call it Diaries and make a boatload of money.
I’ve written more words throughout this project than he collected from 25 years but nobody is putting my picture on Wikipedia.
Seems like a monumental oversight to me.
What I did get out of it was the satisfaction of knowing I did. That and five bucks will get me a slice of pizza.
I wasn’t planning to quit on the project last year, but I got in a mood. I knew, however, that if I was going to attempt the flight again, that it was do-or-die. Quitting again was not an option.
Probably the most interesting part for me was how the project evolved. It was supposed to be a one-word project. I was supposed to think of a word, then write about it. We see how long that lasted.
Doing that turned out to be not only difficult but boring. It felt too much like words for the sake of words, when words are only really interesting in service to a story. The New Word Project was about sitting down and writing out some thoughts every day. Not always the smartest or most brilliant or even very interesting. I mean, how many times can a person talk about a loaf of bread or their technology mishaps?
But just participating in the act of writing. If I kept going long enough, eventually a word shook out.
Believe it or not, I have a list of 365 words to accompany this project. They aren’t always obvious unless you happen to be in my brain, but they’re there. They were slippery, wily little things sometimes. Lots of days I felt like a cat trying to chase down a feather on a string that some awful human was waving around just out of reach.
Sometimes I snagged it and throttled it to a pulp. Other times I sat there are stared at it in mild disinterest. Often I pounced around, bouncing off walls and shredding furniture in pursuit of an idea.
If there is one thing I can say with certainty, it’s that I’m pleased with myself for accomplishing it. Maybe not pleased with every word that is now infinitely preserved in data bytes, but it’s quite impressive to look back and witness the madness my brain has wrought.
And now I need to get out of my head.
As fun as writing has been, as satisfying in terms of making it happen and saying I did it, it has put me very far into my own brain and that is not always the best place to be.
Digging into memories. Dredging up storylines. Embellishing details. Every square inch of minutia in my life has been dissected and analyzed and expostulated upon. Every shopping trip. Every phone call. Every kernel of corn and Sunday afternoon.
I can’t even look at a toothbrush without seeing it in sentences, in anecdotes.
So many insignificant things have been turned into major plot points.
I don’t want to dissect my life and my thoughts down to the microscopic level anymore. I just want to pick up a toothbrush and brush my teeth.
2024 is going to be the year of No Writing. Or, Some Writing, but only when I have something to say. Believe it or not, that happens less often than one might think. I will continue to write, but with a purpose. Where purpose isn’t it’s today, and I said I’d write.
Unless I’m going to start describing every blade of grass, which is not far from happening, I need a break.
I’ve tossed around the idea of writing once a week but haven’t committed to that. It’s an idea. Not a requirement.
Did I learn anything from this project? Besides the fact that I’m verbose?
I learned that writing is immersive and consuming. My author friend always says that he can’t read while he’s writing, nor can he keep up with news or TV shows or much of anything else. I didn’t really understand that until I committed to writing every day.
I learned that sometimes that isn’t a good thing. It really is like going into another world, one that only exists within the perimeter of your own mind. It doesn’t skew reality, exactly, but it does create its own.
I suspect that most things in life are not nearly as dramatic as I made them seem. That doesn’t mean they didn’t happen, it just means… the quality of any event kind of depends on the adjectives you use to describe it.
I learned that the best thing I’ve done in a long time was start writing on paper again. It is so much more effective at corralling your thoughts and weeding out the nonsense that is easy to pound out on a keyboard but more tedious to print, so you use fewer words in service of better ideas.
I learned that narrating your life is exhausting.
Not every loaf of bread that didn’t rise is a story. Sometimes it’s just a loaf of bread that didn’t rise.
I learned that turning every loaf of bread into a story is also kind of fun. You never really know what will happen next.
Well, with me you can probably be reasonably assured that a disaster will happen next, but it turns out there are infinite ways to have a disaster.
And now that we’re here, I feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment and relief. I am looking forward to having nothing to say. But… I also want to tell you about handwriting. And tipping. And I have to tell you about the New Year challenge we started, the one that necessitated a cold bath this morning.
Just… not now.
I’d like to conclude by thanking my four fans for coming on this journey with me. Your chuckles and comments and encouragement sustained me through the moodiest of moods. And writing for you helped me see the humor in so many otherwise mundane or vexing things.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black and the dark street winds and bends. I will say no more lest I be accused of plagiarism. You can read the source and one of my favorite poems here.
And if you are filled with lamentations for the loss of a daily reading exercise and desperately want to know what happens next in The Exciting Life of CL, I invite you subscribe to my email list with that form at the bottom of the page so I can invade your inbox with the next installment.
Let us mark this place… and meet here again for the next chapter. Happy New Year, and may it be filled with only the best words.
Photo: I lay down my weapons.