Project 52

I’m blogging again.

Actually, let me rephrase that: I’m writing again.

Blogging is too specific a term. It sounds like something only tech savvy individuals do, people with computers dangling from every appendage, people who type faster than they can speak. It tends to conjure a vision of sweaty-palmed folk in basements wearing pajamas. Yes, yes, I know I’m describing a caricature of myself, but at the end of the day, blogging is just plain writing, and I’ve been doing a very lousy job of writing.

Which is why I recently took the P52 challenge. For those of you not familiar with the P52 project, it’s simply a loose association of people who are promising each other that they’ll write at least one article a week in 2010. Why in the world would I promise a group of individuals—most of whom are strangers—such a time-consuming thing?

To answer that question, let me take you back to my college creative writing class. Mrs. Roberts required us to do what she called a “freewrite” three times a week every week for that entire semester. For ten uninterrupted minutes we had to sit down and write at least two full pages of… anything. Content, approach, style—none of that mattered for the freewrite. We just had to write for ten minutes straight, no stopping, no distractions.

The first few freewrites were a lot of fun. After four or five, though, my ideas began to run dry and soon my freewrites started to read like the diary of a junior high girl: “I’m sitting next to a fountain writing this and there’s a nice breeze blowing. Lots of projects to do this week.” (Sounds like the majority of posts to Twitter, actually.) For the most part, they continued on like this—lots of words, not that much substance.

But two very interesting things happened during that semester long assignment. First, as with any task you do over and over, I found myself getting better and better at channeling and expressing my thoughts within that ten minute time limitation. Second, I noticed that some of what I wrote was actually pretty good. Nothing polished by any stretch of the imagination, but several of those freewrites sparked ideas that I eventually fleshed out into poems and short stories. I’d say about ten percent of what I wrote was usable—the rest was utter rubbish.

I never had any particular affinity for Mrs. Roberts, but that invaluable assignment taught me a great deal about the discipline of writing (oh, you were waiting for a muse!). Which brings me back to the P52 challenge: sometimes we fall into the “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” trap and all those great ideas we have dissipate into the raging river of our hectic lives. Which is why I’ve accepted the challenge, to help bring in some positive peer pressure, the proverbial kick-in-the-pants to get me putting the digital ink to paper.

Ultimately, for me this challenge is about discipline: the discipline of consistently and purposefully taking a (painfully-slow) word photograph of what’s going on inside my head, every week this year. Here’s to new leaves!

For more information about the project52 project, check out or follow @p52info on Twitter.