31 days later

Published Sunday, July 31 2022 at 11:58 pm
31 days later
Bed where I spent the first few days of (actual) quarantine, July 2022.

“Oh, this endless plague!”

I wrote that on June 29, tongue pressed slightly against cheek, unaware I would test positive for Covid four days later. My first infection cost me most of the month. Holed up in my bedroom, I couldn’t see much art. I’m good now, and regular coverage will resume next week, hopefully with some residual speediness from June. But today, 31 days after I posted for 30 consecutive days, a recap feels useful. Did I write anything of worth? How much did I write anyway? Let’s find out!

By the numbers

Every post was housed in a single word doc to gauge the overall word count. Now, this cumulative word count is approximate, as the master doc doesn’t reflect numerous last-minute changes. Still, a reasonably accurate estimate is:

26,476 words

659 paragraphs

72 pages (letter size/A4)

The average post length was 882 words, and the median 772. The longest post, at just under 2,000 words, was June 27, Love you to the moon and back, about the late singer Teresa Teng. The shortest was technically June 24, Pledge of Nothingness, with only 36 words introducing some Luce Irigaray quotes. Otherwise, the shortest entry was June 10, Avert your eyes (or not), at 463 words.

Eight local art reviews were posted. All were between 500 and 800 words, which is pretty much the same length I’d use for exhibit reviews in newspapers.

Most posts were published at night, after 19:00. Less than a handful were published before noon. The post with the earliest timestamp was June 30, Gramma draws Pokémon, which went live at 6:30. The latest was June 16, Speed killed, which sprinted into view at at 23:59 (a pretty fitting turn of events, given the title).

Only one post I found so immediately subpar that it wasn’t emailed to subscribers upon publication: June 14, Aqueous man. (Currently, I’m more annoyed by June 29, Everybody: Get in here!). The posts with the highest email open rates were June 22, Beautiful fraud, and June 27, Love you to the moon and back. Maybe it was their ‘provocative’ titles? lol.

Cellphone pic shot through Argus viewfinder, July 1 2022.

The process

The original idea for a daily writing project came sometime in March, methinks. I know that by the end of that month, I had already written chunks of very rough drafts for maybe a dozen posts. Most of these focused on singular works of art, like specific anime or photographs, and most of these never materialized. One exception is the June 30 post, which was decided months in advance and provided bedrock for the entire project. It was among the first posts drafted, and the last post completed.

My nomadic curiosity wandered in spring; I didn’t write a word for weeks. This became problematic as June’s reality approached. I realized what writing and posting everyday meant: all free time sacrificed. A plan was necessary. I scrambled together a rough schedule in late May. I slotted in local reviews and decided a mix of essays and reportage would be most achievable and readable.

The schedule became a point of overextension itself, so I relented and mapped out the first ten days only. This tactic didn’t help much, but it put my writing a day ahead of publishing, which was a true rarity during the entire month. Writing everyday is one thing. Publishing the same day is another beast entirely. Balancing the two was not easy, and, as hinted in several posts, I wouldn’t recommend this as a general writing challenge. I don’t think it improved my writing in any substantial way.

If anything, 30 days of June was more about putting my words (and myself) out there. What I wrote June 22 about indulging “bad taste” applies also. I allowed myself to be more vulnerable than I’m usually willing, with all the potential for embarrassment that implies.

Some of the weaker and less developed posts I’ve already made subscribers-only. They’re still free to read if you sign up for emails. Outright deletion seems wrong but the quality is also not worth outright promotion, so this kind of limbo feels appropriate. It’s not all meant to ‘endure.’ To me this self-editing, this putting something ‘out of print,’ is distillation—bringing something closer to its essence, whatever that may be. Not every post I wrote in June is representative of my usual abilities or thoughts. I wrote on the first day that my goal was discipline, not epiphany. I certainly achieved the former.

Everyday in June, I cut my draft for that day’s post from the big word doc and pasted it into a separate doc labelled “Adyton”—a sequestered space that allowed me to focus only on the day’s work at hand.

It was very difficult at first, as I intended to trace a path from childhood obsessions in early June and progress to more recent loves. Once the original schedule lost all relevance, I reached instead for what was doable. Maybe more planning would have yielded different results. Either way, necessity tempered perfectionism. When I returned to writing about beloved things with June 25, Intestinal visions, I picked up some of the earliest drafted ideas and found my enthusiasm and power evident. The last 10 days, I succeeded in sticking to a schedule as closely as circumstance allowed.

Still, the process never truly lost its freneticism, because a daily practice is inherently demanding—and, once committed to, unavoidable. Pivoting to local reviews in the second week, I opted for speed over depth. My attitude here was more or less the newspaper reporter role I embodied for years, but with heightened urgency. Judgments were largely intuitive and inward. There was relief in the rhythm of the process, in seeing a show and writing about it that day or the next.

I could only write so many timely reviews on a daily schedule, but there was insight in this mad dash of an approach. Still, most of the better posts were slapped together over a few days, with either thoughts thought or sentences written ahead of time. The less-prepared pieces are more obvious in their breathlessness.

Lack of air was apparent early on, as the schedule was first discarded with June 3, Arbus the antidote. Diane Arbus made for easy waxing poetic on a Friday afternoon, but I felt totally stumped the next day, June 4, and wrote a diaristic take on Minions. Pure filler—posts I had never intended to run until the eve or day of their publication—occupied five or six days.

Other days found reinforcements in my unpublished stuff: June 9, Needs more fushigi, borrowed from a much longer 2017 memoir, while the Prince two-parter on June 6 and 7 was originally intended for this site back in March.

I was happy with the range of topics and ideas covered, but, as is often the case with projects conceived with haste and volume, the standout pieces are a minority. One main obstacle to the overall quality is a lack of memorable ledes. Also absent in some places is the delicate and pristine structure I always strive for in prose, irrespective of length.

Along the way I considered compiling 30 days into an ebook or something, and the sheer size of the results, along with their potential for revision or amendment, suggests this is still a possibility. Some pieces sport annoying roughnesses that would benefit from more time and TLC.

Marie Kondo believes that we read a book to experience the reading, and the book itself isn’t always important afterward. The same applies to 30 days of June: the actual act of writing was important, the resulting posts less so.

But what did this experience leave as a gift? This recap wasn’t easy to write. Maybe the intervening month of July has already nullified any personal gains. This project reaffirmed the distance between intentionality and intuition; finding their camaraderie in the writing process—and finding it in a timely fashion—remains at the front of my conceptualizing.

Still, I’m exhausted of all this self-expression, which feels demanding, and am eager to return to a more faceless mode of writing for a while.

All that said, these pieces are currently personal favorites from 30 days of June.

To read the entire series: Days 1-6, days 7-12, days 13-18, days 19-24,  days 25-30.

Epilogue: Birthday gifts, 2022

I finally saw a Minions movie. The newest one too, the night before its official release and days before showings became a public nuisance. I had pad thai for the third birthday in a row, a hat trick. I relaxed after a job well done. Waking up the next day, I was happy I had nothing to write.

First up is a review of Wise Guise, a group show at Fall River's Narrows Center for the Arts. Possibly a writeup of the Joan Mitchell show in Baltimore, since I plan on seeing it. And since the site has plenty of content now, another light facelift will be its reward in the near future ;)


08.01.22 ~00:30 - Removed "Recapping 30 days of June" from title