Dear Alex Schelldorf,
My personal project is to write a letter a day for a year. Your personal project was to listen to and write about one record a day for a year. You have accomplished your goal. You persevered through 365 days of job obligations, vacations, drunk nights, laziness, and good ole’ fashion writers block. Hell, I’m writing this letter at 1:30 AM on a Monday. I think you can agree that you just aren’t inspired to write something worth reading everyday. No one is.
So why do it? Who cares other than your parents? At the end of the day (everyday) the challenge is to push yourself to think, to articulate, and to create on a daily basis. To hold yourself accountable and commit to a project (for many reasons) mainly for your own personal fulfillment. And though the adversity of this daily commitment to write and think, you become a stronger writer and enjoy a sense of accomplishment.
I was excited when I found your project completed. That inspires me. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve missed about 15 days so far this year, but I guarantee there will be 365 letters on December 31, 2014. Plus you reviewed many of my favorite albums, in particular Tycho Dive, OutKast Aquimini, Toro Y Moi Anything in Return, and interestingly enough, Little Dragon (S/T). That was a tough day for you but you still got your review up. Respect man.
So, any advice on staying fresh with a project like this?
First, thanks for reaching out! I’m glad that I’ve been some sort of inspiration.
While I can’t speak for anyone but myself, I agree that it was difficult to find inspiration every day. Toward the tail end of the project, I was especially hard pressed to find new ways of saying what I felt to be, at times, the same types of things I had been saying all year. It devolved into a strange place, where I was still driven to complete the project but increasingly fatigued by the daily rigors. I’ve catalogued that time here: http://onerecordperday.wordpress.com/category/things-have-gotten-weird/
Why do it? Someone asked me this very thing the other day, and I think I responded with “Insanity, mostly.” I began as a creative writing major in college, which equates to majoring in unemployment. I switched gears to a more traditional (but equally poor) route in journalism, but was encouraged by my fiction and poetry instructors to write every single day, length be damned. Could’ve been a page, or a graf – even a sentence.
I knew I needed a vehicle to do this. I had tried to publish my top 12 albums of 2012 from December 1st through December 12th. As you’ve experienced this year, life got in the way, and I ended up not completing those posts till… I think the 19th. It was really late, and I was disappointed in myself, even if my lofty goal was self-imposed.
When I realized I owned close to 365 albums, it seemed like some sort of divine intervention to do a year’s worth of blogging. I didn’t tell anyone about the project for a couple of weeks so that if I failed, I would’ve only let down myself and not anyone else.
I think I lost my spark in late summer. How I kept it going that long, I’m still not certain. I was in the last semester of my senior year of college, taking 5 classes. I was interning at two different organizations: a video production company, and a National Hockey League team. I remember waking up sometimes at 5 am to write my post before class. It was insane. Who does that? At that point, it’s less about the music and more about sticking to the arduous but arbitrary – and, again, self-imposed – tenets of the project.
In September, when I moved to Washington, D.C. to intern for NPR Music’s All Songs Considered, I was losing steam. What kept me going was hearing from folks at work that since I was 70% done, I had to finish it. There was no other option. It would have been a pity to get that far into it and quit. That was what kept me going, through the boredom and general malaise towards albums I no longer cared about but still owned, ones that I ironically needed to further the progress toward my goal.
Who cared, other than my parents? That’s also difficult to say, because I don’t think there’s an especially satisfying answer. I wasn’t expecting a ‘microwave’ response. I went in with low expectations, so when I was up over 1000 views in the first month, I was floored. When I hit 3000+ in June, I was wondering where all those people who read it lived so I could kiss them on their face for being so kind.
NPR Music certainly cared. They said specifically that my project was what put me over the top to secure my internship at All Songs. Then again, I also bribed them in my cover letter with cookies.
Readers like you have cared, I suppose, else you wouldn’t have emailed me. While I set out to accomplish the project for myself, I’m grateful and humbled by the response. It’s truly overwhelming.
More than anyone else though, I cared. It has to come from you first before anyone else can.
While I don’t feel like I have any authority whatsoever to speak on this kind of thing, the best advice I have for persevering is to realize that you’re making an investment in yourself, and that you may not see any ‘dividends’ until much, much later. By the time I heard back from NPR, it was August, well past the halfway point of the project. You’re sending me a note in May of 2014, almost a year and a half after I began One Record Per Day, and more than 5 months removed from when I completed it. That for me says everything.
So on those days when you hear that voice telling you to quit, know that your investment is well worth the hassle.