By: Jacob Millay
Believe it or not, science majors are not the only ones who are out in the world experimenting. In fact, I, even as an English major, attempt to complete an experiment at least once a year. One year, I decided to not cut my hair and document it with a picture every day. One month I was vegetarian just to try it out. I went without shampoo for a month just to see if anyone would notice. Sometimes the experiments are massive failures, but I (almost) always learn something through the process. And isn’t that the ultimate goal in an experiment? Not to succeed, but to learn something?
My most recent foray into experimentation, ironically enough, was about blogging. Most writers have almost identical advice for young and beginning writers. They say to write as often as possible. Every day, if you can. Through this mass of writing you will be able to find your own unique voice, streamline the writing process, and learn more about yourself. All of that sounded pretty good to me, so I figured that I would set out on a grand journey to write a blog post every day for a year. If all the good authors recommend something, it has to be good, right? They couldn’t possibly all be wrong, right?
I knew that writing this much wasn’t going to be easy. During the school year I am already writing often for class, so it was going to be a struggle to find the time and the inspiration to write. Often I would lose some sleep in order to stay up to write my daily post. I would grind out at least three hundred words, my tentative goal for each post, and then immediately fall asleep. After a few months, this simply became part of my day. It was an easy routine to fall in to. The real jelly on the toast was that I knew that no one was reading my posts, so I had no expectations to live up to. The world was wide open and beautiful. If I wanted to write a post about how sponges are disgusting and no one should use them to clean anything, I could. And I did. If I wanted to write a blog post without using the space bar, I could. And I did. If I wanted to complain theme parks, I could. And I did.
When all assumptions about what I could or couldn’t say were taken away, I thought that I might be drowned in the possibility of all the options. I could write about ANYTHING. But most of the time that means we write about nothing since we now lack the comfort of an assignment sheet to follow. Instead, I would simply sit down and let my mind wander. Some days it would stumble upon a legitimately interesting idea that could be expanded further. Other days, I would mumble to myself about how I hated ginger ale. But the drive of writing daily pushed me further than any other writing assignment ever could.
And it did help me develop a style. Previously, I could clearly see that I was emulating other writers in my own work. It was clear to me that I was trying to be Ray Bradbury or Stephen King or that one cool, trendy blogger on Tumblr who I read once. When you write every day, it is way too much work to emulate someone. You eventually develop this one strange voice that slowly gets stronger and stronger. As I forced myself to write, I was able concentrate my thoughts and see myself on that screen as I wrote. It was a little trail that allowed someone to wander inside my head, if only for a brief moment.
Looking back on it, writing a blog post everyday was pretty exhausting. There were a lot of days where I sat down and felt like I had nothing to say. Nothing was exciting in my life. I had no brash political statements to make. No insight into higher learning. No musical suggestions for my nonexistent readers. Those days were hard. And, frankly, I missed a lot of days because I was tired, busy, or just lazy. So I didn’t reach my goal. Not even close. It was a pretty horrid attempt honestly. I was a football coach sending out their kicker to try to make a seventy-five yard field goal. Against the wind. It was always going to come up short.
That does not mean, however, that I regret doing it. I learned a lot about myself. I certainly would not be writing these blog posts if I didn’t push myself out of my comfort zone originally. And while everyone always talks about how great it is to stretch yourself, they forget that the actual stretching is sometimes pretty painful. But is it worth it? I certainly think so. And the only way you will know is to try it yourself. So go for it. Or don’t. It’s up to you.
Jacob Millay (’16) is an English Education major at Whitworth University. He is a master of consuming, whether that is the newest David Fincher film, the newest Death Cab for Cutie album, or his mother’s spaghetti. He wishes he had any plans for after graduation or for next weekend, but, alas, he has none.