One A Day 2011

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.


Filed under One A Day, Writing

9 responses to “One A Day 2011

  1. Jen

    Hmmm was my first reaction to it all too. I’ve been busy the last few days so haven’t really thought about it hugely since.

    Having read that though, I entirely agree. I feel slightly worried that by agreeing I’ll offend someone but I can’t help but agree with every point of yours!

    Much like you, I’ll be blogging more in 2011 than I did before OneADay but I won’t be doing it for any other reason than myself.
    I’ve proved to myself that I can blog every day and I’m proud of it. Even managed to blog after my birthday night out when the room was constantly spinning!
    I’ve done it now though so I’m happy to go back to being a regular blogger as and when I have things to say/time to spare πŸ™‚

  2. Ashton Raze

    Out of interest, what do you feel 2010’s OneADay achieved for you other than being able to prove that you have the discipline to write 365 instances of ‘utter bollocks’? How is that something to be more proud of than, pledging to write, say, 104 posts you’re happy with?

  3. Jen

    Personally, that’s about it really. Self discipline is a nice thing to be reminded you possess πŸ™‚
    I’m not saying it’s rational πŸ˜‰ But it still feels oddly nice to know you can do it.

    I suspect a name change for 2011’s OneADay would help matters, as after all, it’s not got much in common with the original other than being a blogging collective.
    Not my position to say though and ultimately, I’ll be watching with interest and reading other people’s entries with interest anyway.

  4. Ashton Raze

    RE: the ‘utter bollocks’ line. I’m not saying I think that’s what the posts are comprised of, just quoting, so we’re clear. πŸ˜‰ Part of the reason I ask is that, maybe incorrectly, most of you haven’t given the impression that you’ve actually enjoyed doing it, and I find it hard to relate to doing it if that’s the case. Certainly not in Mike’s case, where I’d be very surprised if he needs to prove anything to himself in terms of dedication to writing. Very few people can write, rewrite and rerewrite a full length (and high quality) novel.

    I personally don’t want to do the OneADay thing because I do already write pretty much every day, and I don’t feel a blog offers me anything at all. I know I can write to a deadline, and I know I can write with dedication, so writing 365 posts I’m not happy with would literally seem like a waste of my time. I think it’s good that you feel you’ve achieved something from it, I just can’t relate. I’ve decided not to take part in any form next year though, apart from maybe posts promoting the charity thing/including the oneadayers on a special blogroll.

    I suggested doing some kind of blogging collective, that contained ‘OneADay’, which would’ve basically involved sharing blogrolls, the non-oneaday people could help pitch the charity angle etc, basically like it has been this year but with better organisation. . My other suggestion was not to do OneADay at all, and change the regularity for everyone, like a minimum thing, but then calling it OneADay is silly.

    • Mike

      Well, my writing life prior to January 2010 was defined by brief bursts of frenzied activity and then longer periods of doing sweet FA, and I knew that if I wanted to actually be in a position where I could write creatively for a career, I’d have to sort that out. I wanted to do One A Day as I thought it would be a laugh and an interesting challenge, but also because I hoped it would arm me with the self-discipline I so badly needed. That’s what it’s done, as far as I’m concerned! πŸ™‚

      And while I grumble about late-night posts, it’s not like the ‘nooo, please, nooo’ situation happens very much. It’s only when I’m really tired or really drunk that I genuinely struggle for something to write about. I have very much enjoyed taking part, and I don’t think that came across in tonight’s post. I’m going to have a great sense of achievement when I’ve finished, and it’s succeeded in re-training me to give me the tools I need to succeed in my wider professional life, so for me the experience has been a win-win.

      • Ashton Raze

        Actually YOU’VE never given the impression you didn’t enjoy it, you and Pete are pretty much the only people who seem like you do (sorry Jen, sometimes you do seem to find it a bit of a chore. :P)

        I’m glad it benefited you anyway Mike, I don’t necessarily agree that there was anything dramatically wrong with the way you paced yourself writing-wise before, but if it wasn’t working for YOU then there was. I just know this rigid OneADay formula would achieve nothing for me, and think it’s a bit of a shame that it’d be a case of ‘do it to these specifications or don’t be involved at all’, when for the majority of people the ‘one a day’ ruling just doesn’t offer anything other than stress.

        I think from the perspective of someone who DID post OneADay, and feels they benefited from doing so, I can totally understand your reservations at the changes. But I can understand (more) the people who want it to be a little more relaxed… call it diluted if you want, that’s fair enough, I understand why -to you and Jen- it feels that way. But last (this) year there were a lot of people who wanted to do it for fun, as something to enjoy doing, and a lot of that fun got sucked out of it via the more militant way you and a few others wanted to approach it… which is cool, it’s what YOU wanted to do and I have no problem with that, but the sheer amount of people who ended up hating it and quitting probably says something about making it more accessible too, hence why I think the idea of a OneADay collective contained within a bigger… er, Blogosphere? Is that the correct definition of Gillen’s word? would be a nice community thing.

        I realised for me, though, that I personally don’t ‘get’ community activities. If this was a report card, it’d say ‘does not work well in a team’. So even though right now I feel like I’d enjoy being part of it, I know I eventually wouldn’t, so it’s probably best if I just pass, and remain a maverick blogger who operates by my own rules*.

        *There are no rules. Apart from THAT one.

      • Jen

        I suspect the ‘there are no rules’ is the best bet all round.

        I don’t remember ever forcing rules upon people or anything like that. Tbh I’m not much of a team player. I wanted to blog every day for a year for my benefit, if I’d been the only person doing so I’d have still done it. I’m stubborn like that though and also probably quite single minded. I made my own rules in my head (over 200 words per entry, have to blog every day no matter what but a day counts until the time I go to bed etc).

        I can count a precious handful of entries I truly found a chore but out of 365, that’s not bad at all. In terms of all my writing (reviews, articles etc), some of those have been a chore too. Doesn’t mean I dislike the concept on the whole πŸ˜‰ It’s like a lot of things in life. One level in a game might be a bit tedious but if the rest of the game is extremely rewarding, it still makes the whole experience beneficial.

        I think people blogging as part of a community is a lovely idea, but personally I think a name change would be much more appropriate.

        Having said that, it’s not the end of the world in the grand scheme of things πŸ™‚ I’ll have still have achieved what I set out to do and presumably others will be happy too!

  5. Ashton Raze

    Actually in regards to the first paragraph, that applies to you and Pete as well, just obviously not with writing a novel.

  6. Hey guys. I see your points and actually agree with some of them. The reason, though, is to be inclusive, as you say. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Those who want to be hardcore can still be hardcore. Those who don’t want to or can’t commit don’t have to.

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