The future of One A Day was always going to be a topic that came up towards the end of this year, and sure enough, the plans for 2011 have been revealed. My reaction is: hmmm.
While I wholeheartedly support the fact that it’s now for charity, the relaxing of the ‘rules’ strikes me as a tepid watering down of the concept. In fact, in my opinion, it ruins the concept. The key to One A Day is in the name – that’s its function, its reason for existing. Its purpose is to encourage participants to develop a writing habit, to actively continue their blogs in the knowledge that others are going through the same blood, sweat and tears at 11.50pm when they’re really fucking knackered, to go through the pain barrier and get something down, no matter how shit it is. I’ve written many posts this year when I’ve been absolutely paralytic, and had to tippy-tap single letters while the room was spinning around me and my fingers point-blank refused to hit the right keys. I could have just gone to bed, but the need to challenge myself that One A Day gave me, and the sense of responsibility not to let down the other entrants, always forced me to man up and write. I’ve basically been a stubborn git. I went to Majorca and paid for internet access every day so that I could get entries down. I went to Grenada and wrote every post in my hotel room on my iPhone, using the wi-fi I had there. This isn’t self-congratulation, much as I’m pleased to be approaching the finish line intact, it’s an attempt to explain that the challenge of writing a blog entry every single day is what One A Day is all about. It makes you go the extra mile.
Diluting this concept is fine to encourage people not to give up after missing an entry, but it makes it something different. It won’t be One A Day anymore, not really. The new emperor has no clothes. The fact that sticking to it is really fucking difficult, is what makes it unique. I’m only still doing it because I made a commitment. I wanted to prove myself. I wanted to show that I could stick at something, that I had the discipline to force myself to write an entry every day. Much of what I’ve written is utter bollocks, and doubtless if I’d been able to take a week off without worrying about it, the general quality of the few posts I did write might have been better. But would I have even returned? I think that’s one of the problems with the new rules – without the enforced discipline, a whole load of people are going to get to the end without really committing to the process. They’ll type an entry every day for the first couple of weeks while it’s all shiny and new and cool, but soon it’ll be every two days, every three, every week, once a fortnight, and then it’ll be three months later and they’ll haphazardly crap something out just to stay in. And when they get to 31 December 2011 they’ll congratulate themselves for making it, but deep down they’ll know that they didn’t really do it properly. The rate of attrition is part of the fun. By making it easier to make it to the end by relaxing the requirements, it may be more inclusive but it makes it… well… not worth as much.
I always roll my eyes at hardcore videogamers who bleat on about how so-called casual games are ‘ruining’ the industry by doing terrible stuff, like not being horribly obscure and encouraging more people to play by streamlining interfaces and having decent help systems and tutorials, etc. In the case of One A Day, though, the hardcore aspect of the process – writing a post every single day, no matter what you’re doing, what your problems are, making no allowances for your location or internet status or how near a computer you are – is why it works. Watering down the concept takes away the very thing that makes it worth doing in the first place. How do you encourage a writing habit by making it fine for bloggers not to blog at the first sign of trouble?
The announcement of the new rules has come at a rather coincidental time for me. Last night I was at a party, and one of my friends asked me what my plans were for One A Day in 2011. Would I carry on doing it? At the time, I didn’t know. I was torn between keeping up the daily routine, at the expense of writing time that I could in theory use more productively, or dropping the requirement for daily posts here. While the latter would certainly free up more of my time, I could see the obvious problem: a serious danger that I’d quickly slip into a bad habit where I wouldn’t update for a few days, and soon this blog would become quieter than an Australian cricket fan. But then I got thinking: what is this blog supposed to achieve next year? Certainly the reason for its existence is going to be different. By the time my year of One A Day is up in mid-January 2011, I’ll have proven what I needed to prove, and so this blog can hopefully become more of a fun project for me, updated when I bloody well feel like it.
So I think that I’m going to pretty much adopt the rules of One A Day 2011, such as they are, but not actually be part of the process. I wish all the participants well and will read a lot of the blogs, but there’s no point in me being involved. Even leaving aside the watering down of the concept, I think it’s best for me to retire unbeaten.
I should have a lot to blog about, though. Agents and publishers and new projects and who knows what else? So maybe I won’t need ‘rules’ to carry on with The Mirrorball. Maybe the self-discipline I’ve gained, that I thank One A Day for, will be enough.
While I have absolutely no influence on the matter, I really hope that the organisers realise they’re making a mistake by diluting the One A Day concept to the point where it won’t mean as much as this year’s version. But still, I hope that they’re right and I’m wrong. The proof will be in the pudding, I guess.