Wednesday, 19 August 2015

A Line A Day Keeps... Me Busy

Last year, I started a 'diary a day' thing. It was essentially an exercise in writing fitness, but I also had other hopes, such as examining/enhancing the way I look at and process the world. Anyway, whatever the results, I'm glad I did it, but this year I've been on a different 'adventure': a line a day. Already that's not accurate, because actually it's a sentence a day, but 'line a day' trips off the tongue a little easier, and in general I'm into that whole 'brevity' thing, man.

So, what's the thinking behind this? I wanted to move from writing lots about each day, to writing just a little. The idea was to 'become more poetic' - to be hygienic in my expression, but stronger in spirit. I wanted pith, humour, drama, formal inventiveness [as is always the wish], rhythm, music, soul... so many things, and so much, all inside a singular sentence. And, sure, I've bent 'the rules' a wee bit, vis-a-vis grammar, utilising ellipses, dashes, kerazy kommas and line breaks to cram in a lot, but I think I've already managed most of my original aims. Making long sentences isn't what I wanted the project to be about, originally, but it's fine that that's krept in [sorry, I'll stop using ks instead of cs now]. I still get days where I want to be 'plot focused' and record as much of what happened as I can, but then there are times where the 'more poetic' instincts lead me to express my summary in a natural breath, rather than mechanically ground out.

Another hope of this project was that it would take less time each day, therefore allowing me to crack on with other creative works [you may remember me wondering if the full diary a day doofer was sapping my time and energy each day so that my production of, say, poetry suffered]. Well, my production in that respect is still not really where I want it to be, although I have got a few new drafts to work on. I guess I can pretty definitively say how much work I do's got nothing to do with my little forays into life recording.

It has occasionally been the case that even this diddy-diary was 'too much' for me to do. I think, at my lowest point, I've let eight or nine days go by without writing anything. If I remember rightly, I was quite depressed at that point, but I got out of it at least. Other than that, at most it's been two days, and not very often at that. I've only managed to confuse myself once with respect to 'what day I'm on' [in my notebook, each sentence is literally just numbered. In hindsight, it would have been much more pragmatic [though 'less poetic' imho] to date them, so there would be no doubt, but then I guess I assumed my discipline would have been perfect for such a seemingly easy task], but I can at least say that, so far, my discipline has been better than last time. Would be a bad job if it wasn't, like, but I digress... I don't really want to dissect how/why I've not managed to diligently do every day as targeted, but I will say that life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans.

Another way in which this year's project is the same as the last is in what I might do with the resulting mess. After seeing Richard Barrett's collaboration with himself [not a euphemism] at an Edge Hill symposium, I was really intrigued by 'processing' one's diaries, reforming, regurgitating, repurposing and examining what remains. My hope with this, as you can imagine if you're familiar with certain language poets [or prose poetry?], is to turn it into a poem. In fact, in many ways it already is, always was and was always going to be a poem. I like the idea of it completing itself, maybe as twelve individual poems or a twelve-stanza 'mini-epic', or even something between the two. I can already imagine it being published, and where, but that'll obviously depend on the quality of the material I end up with etc. Watch this space...

But more on what's different. Of course, I don't get that hand-numbing marathon sensation that I used to. That was quite something, burning through, what was it, eight sides? Did I get up to sixteen once? Writing that much in one sitting was, as I say, somewhat wearying. And it was interesting mentally, because you got into a flow state - always nice - but one that was less dependent on outright creativity. Sure, memory in general is a creative process, but with the memories often being less than a day old, I didn't really need to stretch the truth to fit the day-sized gap. It made the flow feel a bit more... tranquil, I suppose, than with fiction, say.

With this 'line a day', however, memory plays a different process. I have two main sentence types - the one I write at the end of the day that I have just come up with on the spot, or one that I've formed and drafted in my head, either earlier on in the day, or just before I've picked up my pen. The latter is often less of a 'did x, y and z' type report, and more of a sweeping sentence. Especially if I've come up with this relatively early, the process of memory is more about remembering the words, rather than the experiences - so that's a strange kind of inversion that's interesting to note. Speaking of notes, I believe I note that this project slots into my life easier than the last, doesn't get in the way, and also makes me feel like I'm appreciating my awareness of what's going on in life without having to obsess over every little detail and, in doing so, be blocked from enjoying things as they happen. The contemplative processes of the two activities is radically different and - apologies if I'm overusing this word and/or its concept - this year I feel it's 'more poetic'

Speaking of 'more poetic', next year I think I'll do a haiku a day, just like Neil Schiller's done. That's actually a pretty decent challenge, I'd imagine. Haiku[s] are tough to get right at the best of times, so doing them in bulk could be worse [or the practice could improve your skills?], but I'd allow myself more editing freedom than I have done these past couple of years, so that'd be cool. But hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves...

Last thing to say is that I feel there's less to analyse about my journey this year. I think the reason is as simple as I'm writing less, the process is less arduous... there's just not that meat that there was last year for my masticating molars to malform. Or maybe I 'got it out my system' last time [lol]. Either way, good for you guys 'cause I won't be boring you with loads of posts on the topic. Although this one has built into an overly-long post. Sorry about that...


  1. I've been a long time blogger. I've been an even longer diary writer (over thirty years now!). I miss the days before Facebook and Twitter and all the other social media sites that promote quick status updates on peoples' lives. I love when people write long blogs about their thoughts and feelings. I don't want to just see a photo about what someone ate today - I want to know how that egg omelette made them feel and what circumstances brought them to be eating that egg omelette in the first place. People these days are too much into instant gratification, and I feel like the journey is no longer appreciated.

    1. Very happy to have your input Nova :) Why do we write at all if not, on some level, because we love the richness of language and getting lost in trying to get it to even adequately express our thoughts/experiences.
      I think you're right about the instant gratification and I think it's led to shorter attention spans in general too.
      Anyway, I very much appreciated your journey whenever I stop off at your blog :)


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