…and now for something completely different

I have come to the conclusion that I am not a very good writer.

There could some over-simplification there; perhaps I should clarify. I might have some little skill as a writer, I might not, but based on the frequency with which I produce written content, one could be forgiven for thinking that as a writer I appear to be a pretty good software engineer.

I will allow that there are those among you who feel I have a knack for occasionally tapping the keyboard and fabricating an entertaining twist of phrase or two. That said, while I have certainly always appreciated the kind, supportive comments (arm-twisting included), a good friend of mine once told me, succinctly, “a writer writes”. Those three simple words have come to plague me with regularity because, and we can all agree on this, over the course of the past year (indeed, off and on since 2003), my output has been somewhat less than prolific.

I have lately thought that maybe I just don’t have much to say nowadays. Life ain’t so bad (knock on wood), and I seemed to have much more to say in the past, when I was generally more regularly irked up. Candidly, though, I have to believe that’s complete hogwash. The internet, the actual world even, is full of boneheads spouting an oral hurricane that absolutely defines vacuousness. MTV alone is doing an admirable job of filling the ether with words full of empty thoughts, and the number of slack-jawed knuckle-draggers populating internet comment boards with trollish flame-wars and keen insights on everything from Tiger Woods’ latest GPS location to the proper composition of navel lint is not exactly in decline. So clearly, there’s plenty of room here for tossing out a few words every day or so while effectively saying nothing important.

Still, though, were does that bring us? A writer writes…right?

I know this: something must be done, something must change. Should I give up on my mostly unrealized aspirations? No, I’m not there yet. Maybe later, someday, when I’m all growed up completely. Should I instead make yet another promise to rededicate myself to generating something worth reading from time to time? Bah. Been there, done that. When it comes to this space, I’m full of empty promises. I have four kids, put in more hours than your average full-time software dude, and absolutely refuse to give up my fleeting hockey, beer, and video game time.

What eventually occurred to me is that it’s not about content, it’s about exercise. I don’t often enough flex my writer’s physique or work my writer’s muscles. I need to work out, frequently. So I’ve given myself one last opportunity to make good on my lofty aspirations, one last chance to learn to be a writer. I’ve thrown down the gauntlet, to myself, and accepted it. Thus, I present to you the 2010 Puddintopia Writing Challenge.

So here’s what we’re gonna do: over the course of the year spanning January 29, 2010 to January 28, 2011, I am going to write 300 individual creative writing entries of 400 words or more. The entries can be almost anything as long as they represent original work, from fiction to more traditional Puddintopia commentary. I expect there will be a lot of short fiction, because it generally tends to appear more easily in my somewhat overactive imagination. They may be themes, there may not. There may be recurring characters. There may be lonely visitors. There will even be nearly incoherent ramblings, but rest assured, there will be no song lyrics.

Honestly, I’m not totally sure what my experiment will yield. Of one thing, though, I am sure. If I can’t do it, if I give up or lose faith, if I find the burden of producing a paltry 400 words 6 out of every 7 days too much to bear, well, that will be it, for now. I will accept, reluctantly, that perhaps this stage of my own psuedo-adulthood is so full of Life that I just can’t squeeze in that one extra project. I will take my writer’s dream, lovingly wrap it in tissue paper and a bright purple box, tape the box shut (because that’s how Mom does it), attach a note that reads, “for slower days”, and place it gingerly on the top shelf of my mental closet where the dust settles in a thick film.

Between you and me, though, I don’t think “slower days” ever come. I think that if you end up putting something in that box, that box will forever be lost among the clutter in my head. I think you make time for the ones you love and the things you want to do, and I think that on this day in 2011, I’ll be raising a glass to toast my 120,000 words about nothing.