I wrote yesterday that I had to forget the reader in order to complete my #Aprildaily project. I wrote that in order to publish a ten-minute free write every day, I had to pretend nobody would read what I wrote.
When I hopped in the shower after pressing Publish on yesterday’s post, I realized the whole “forget the reader” thing was a lie.
I did not forget the reader. I did not forget that the writing I was doing was going to go out into the world. I knew, in the back if not the front of my mind, that what I wrote was going to be public. And it was that knowing that led me to write fiction.
During the first three months of 2015, I truly wrote as if nobody was reading. I wrote that way because nobody was reading. The words were kept safe in my composition books, and when I penned them, I wrote to myself. Journal entries, mostly, though some were free-writes from prompts. And during those three months, I didn’t write a word of fiction. Attempting fiction intimidated me, and it was too easy to slip into diary mode when I knew the entries would remain private.
When I knew those words would be released into the wild, though, when I vowed to publish a free write every day during the month of April, diary entries were off the table. So if I pulled a prompt from the box that would have been too “Dear Diary,” or that would have been a cliché personal story, or that I had no personal story for, fiction leaked out instead.
And that was the beauty of this project: it was the publicness of it that shaped the writing, and that permitted unexpected things to happen. At the paper level, I did stick to the rules of keep the pen moving, capture first thought, and do not self-edit during the ten minute writes. But at a higher level — at the ideas level — the awareness that the writing would be published started my pen in a different direction than if I knew from the get-go that the words would never be read.
At several points during the month, since the work was public and I therefore analyzed it more, I noticed patterns that I wanted to break, or I got bored with myself. How many posts am I going to write about food or nature? How many times have I written the words “I,” “my,” “me”? And if I was bored, surely someone else would be bored too. So when I pulled a prompt like “fingernail clippings” or “a receipt for flowers,” scenes presented themselves — scenes that included strangers and did not include me — and I wrote them. I don’t think I would have taken that leap in a private journal. I was not brave enough to attempt fiction. But now I know I can.
And with that, I will end my analysis. Thank you so much to all of you who contributed prompts, who read the posts, and who liked and commented — you kept me going when it was hard and scary, and your support gives me the courage to keep pressing Publish.