Annual Writing Exercise

Every year for my birthday, I write myself stories.

It’s sort of a birthday present, and sort of a way to push myself. I did NaNoWriMo for seven years, and it was amazing, but I’m just not a novelist and every year it burned me out for longer and longer. So I’m not doing that anymore. I do this instead:

Starting on the 1st, each story is a countdown. I write one every day, and some years I do themes, which are fun but very hard if I pick the wrong theme. See, the theme has to have enough breadth to last me 25 days. The first year, I used numbers. It seemed appropriate, but it was not a good choice. 25 days of stories about numbers start to get a little repetitive. Plus, numbers that size start to get unmanageable  I started with one, solitude; two, slices of bread; three, a table set for four with one missing space. I ended up with 23, people who’ve been laid off this month; 24, dead cats floating down the river; 25, thousand dollars in debt. The more numbers I did, the harder it was to make the next day’s story different from the day before.  

(I guess it was a count-up. )

The next year, I flipped through the dictionary, pointed at a random word, and went from there. The next year, I used a haiku generator, which was fun but too unserious to maintain. I didn’t make the full countdown that year.

I try to finish each story every day. Maybe it’s a bigger story than I originally thought–then I try to finish it early, and expand it later. Once, I wrote 6,000 words. Totally absorbed for six hours, I came out of it exhausted and couldn’t finish a story for three days. That’s okay; the 6k was a fabulous experience, and that’s what this is all about. Aside from the stories I get in the end, most of which are for Me Only because they’re more doodles than art pieces, this is a writing exercise. Some writers work every day. Just a hundred words, just ten words, but something. I can’t do that. I get burned out fast, I get bored. I don’t stop working on the stories, but I do stop writing them for a few days every fortnight or so. I draw for them instead, or sculpt, but I just can’t do brain-work forever. I need to do hand-work or I get agitated. I can’t write every day.

Except once a year, for my birthday.