Day Three Hundred and Sixty Five: Insert Sinatra Related My Way Pun Here

As I write this I’ve no idea what I’m going to post for the second last day of 2011, all I know is what I want to say on the final day of 2011.

I decided to take part in this one a day posting challenge in order to increase my creative output and I think it’s worked quite well. Despite all the ruminations on how to play the blogging game and the occasional whine about readers, I knew what I was writing was never going to set the world alight. Really, how could it? I’m 26 years old and as far as I’m concerned I’m still learning a lot about the creative process. My writing improves on a daily basis and the only reason I can say that is because of this blog. Perhaps one day I’ll write something truly great, something worthy of critical appreciation or perhaps I won’t, either way it doesn’t matter. I’ve obtained a greater sense of enjoyment through writing for this blog and that’s been invaluable.

Let’s get personal. Before I started the project a lot of what I was writing was driven almost exclusively by existential angst. I was in a dark place, and the only way I felt I could make sense of this meaningless existence was to leave my mark on the world. Not just on my close friends and family but wider than that; to be remembered for something. By writing every day, I thought, it meant I could finally craft the speck of talent I had for writing into something powerful, useful and remarkable.

That’s changed.

Writing has always come naturally to me. When I cleaned out my Mum’s loft earlier on this year the report cards that we found which were from my primary school years spoke highly of my writing ability. It seemed that those teachers thought that my skills were beyond that of my classmates and that my mathematics skills were stunningly average. The latter hasn’t changed, but has the former? I’m loath to say that I’m a good writer, or even a better writer than the average person but I do get immense enjoyment from both writing.

Having spent Christmas with my family, my Gran and my Mum were eager to tell Jennifer of how I used to be able to name the make and model of every single car I could see in the street. They said this was because I used to read Auto-Mart constantly as a child. Apparently there are even a few photos floating around of me sitting reading the newspaper when I was two years old.

So perhaps the ease I feel I have at expressing myself through writing comes directly from that. Who knows.

I suppose I’m getting away from the point a little here. I’ve struggled to feel as though I’m a competent musician from the moment I picked up a guitar on my 17th birthday. Writing lyrics was easy, writing music was hard. I neglected writing for a while, dallying with nonsense poetry and rubbish prose. Perhaps somewhat fortuitously, starting university, studying literature and my band breaking up all happened around about the same time in 2010. When I heard a friend was going to do a one a day blogging project (he didn’t see it through) I thought I’d do something similar to not only enhance my writing but to perhaps also apply the knowledge of literature I had begun to learn in university in a practical way.

The stars seemed to align, as it were.

Over at the Daily Post, they’ve asked us to look back at our blogs and to reflect on our blogging in 2011. The first question is why did you started the post a day/week challenge? so I think I’ve just answered that pretty comprehensively above.

The second is Describe the state of your blog the time your started the challenge? well, when I started the challenge I had two blogs, one for creative writing and one for more critical, journalistic writing. I binned the latter and dumped everything into the this one. Before that, Brain Echo was simply a creative echo, a collection of rubbish creative writing (bar the odd decent flash fiction/fragment). That actually ties quite nicely into question three, “how did your blog evolve over the course of the year?” Well it had a bit everything, really. I started with a schedule in mind but I never really followed through. It just became a mash of fiction, poetry, articles, mixtapes and the odd video or two. It seems this blogging strategy worked well for me, although it may not have necessarily have done so for the readers of this blog…

Did I post as often as I’d hoped? Well, given that I’m on the final day I’d say yes. Well, that’s a lie. I didn’t post as often as I’d hoped because recently I’ve had no internet connection, thus making it difficult to actually post something. I missed two or three days but it couldn’t be helped.

I probably wouldn’t do anything differently if I started again, purely because this blog has been a voyage of discovery, a way for me to push my own creative boundaries. In that sense it’s taken me places that I’d never thought I’d go.

The thing I’m most proud of accomplishing this year is almost certainly having some poetry published in From Glasgow to Saturn. Without the drive this blog has given me, it wouldn’t have happened.

Now here’s the question I really wanted to answer: what surprised you about the challenge? The difficulty of it. Challenge is definitely the correct term. Although I’ve already said that writing seems to come naturally to me, there’s still an immense amount of work involved in creative writing. Rarely does an idea hit the page fully formed. Editing and redrafting are definitely the aim of the game.

On a similar note, the study of literature is very much about the dissection of books, their themes and their impact on society. When I was in school I used to think that we were looking too much into books, and that all the imagery, metaphors and deep textual analysis was essentially just trying to find something that wasn’t really intended to be there by the author. However, when I started studying literature it dawned on me that many authors and poets actually do intend to layer their work with meaning. Yet, this opinion changed again when I started studying creative writing. Most authors take care of plot and characters first before adding in that extra layer. In fact, it appears that a lot of that extra layer stuff is added subconsciously by many authors.

It seems that a little of both is involved; on one hand the author sometimes intends to imbue their work with many layers and sometimes they just do it subconsciously. That’s really what makes textual analysis of novels and poems so exciting.

The hardest part of writing for me was doing that. Many people can write pretty words, but it’s very hard to write pretty words with multiple meanings or with fantastic imagery and that works on different levels. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded yet, nevertheless when I’m writing I tend to keep these things in mind.

Creative writing is not an easy thing to do and you have to work very hard to be any good at it. No one just spits out genius on the page, not even the absolute greats. So perhaps, above all, that’s what this blog has taught me the most – even if it is hard work, as long as you enjoy it, the effort is worth it in the end.

What advice would I give to bloggers who want to blog regularly? Have a theme in mind or a goal, but don’t beat yourself up if you go off topic or stray from the path towards that goal. I’d also so say just do it. When you make the commitment make sure you’re entirely aware of what it entails because a lot of the time you might be too exhausted to post. If that ever happens, post about it. Just write every day. It helps, trust me.

Truth be told, I never really did play the blogging game in the end. Between uni, work and creativity the only blogs I came across are the ones who came across me first. If you’re following me and you’re reading this, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to read whatever I had to say. I didn’t start this in order to have a legion of regular readers however the fact I have just a few really is tremendous and I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed it. My gratitude to you guys is eternal.

For 2012 I’m going to blog less, maybe only once or twice a week. Instead what I hope to do is focus on writing a whole lot more. You place a great deal of pressure on  yourself when you’ve agreed to blog every day for a year, often meaning that you’ll end up posting things which could use a little more work just so that you have content for that day. That’s what I’m looking forward to the most; the pressure of having to post something but without the daily timeframe. More editing, more redrafting and more writing for 2012 with the goal of creating work which surpasses anything I’ve done so far.

Oh dear, I seemed to have rambled now for nearly 1600 words. I’ll wrap this up then, shall I?

Personally 2011 has been a pretty poor year. For my closest friends, family and I this year has been pretty grim. Creatively it’s been great (with very little of the creative output focussing on the events going on around me) so hopefully it’ll get even better next year.

With every ounce of my being I thank you for reading this. I sincerely hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it. Tonight, a chapter ends but the book is still being written. I hope you stick around in 2012.

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