Admitting failure is sometimes the best way to proceed. Sometimes I find myself stuck in a place with no way forward, no way to the sides—the only way forward is, paradoxically, to back up, regroup and make another plan.
So that’s what I’m doing now.
Almost a month ago was the beginning of the 100 Day Project, an initiative where artists are supposed to create something small, yet consistent, for 100 days in a row. I thought that would be a good undertaking for me to… undertake, and so I stated my intentions to write 100 reflections in the post “Day 000/100. One hundred days of reflections.”
But then I lost my mind.
The initial post was all well and good; I talked about my intentions, which were reasonable. But then I started the project proper on Day 1 by biting off more than I could chew. In the article “Day 001/100. An introduction to me: a queer/gay, Black, Christian intellectual writer… and the limitations of identity” I promised that I would use the 100 days to re-introduce myself and explore my intersecting identities (which wasn’t a bad impulse) but then I went overboard on Day 2 with “Day 002/100. What kind of Christian am I? (An Introduction)” and promised that I would retell the history of all of my religious influences from birth until the present day.
And that’s where I got into trouble.
There was nothing wrong with the aspiration, per se, nor the topic in and of itself, but the combination proved to be deadly. The first problem I ran into was a big one: I wasn’t emotionally prepared to tell the story of my early religious upbringing. I wasn’t even sure of what I could remember of the experience except for a few fragments, and so I took several days—almost a week—sorting through memories, doing research on liturgical customs in the denomination of my birth, trying to deal with the relatively unprocessed emotions from that time in my life. And it blew my project of writing 100 short reflections in 100 days all to hell.
The second problem was like the first: having mined my childhood memories and emotions, I was faced with the next day, where I would have had to mine my adolescence. I was—and am—totally unprepared for that.
So, I painted myself into a corner. And now, I need to take a messy step back, onto the freshly painted surface of my floor, and figure out what to do next.
Fortunately, the next step was pretty apparent. I needed to go back to the principles of the 100 Day Project and remember what it was that I was supposed to be doing in the first place. And there I discovered what I needed to do next: I needed to create something small every day and publish it. This is doable. I’ve done it before. I can do it again. But I need to remember not to become too grandiose. Sure, there will be the occasional well-thought-out essay which mines my history and my emotions and evokes deep feelings in both myself and the people who read what I wrote.
But for the most part, I will limit myself to brief reflections. Just to keep me humble, I have set my bar low: I only need write 250 words a day about whatever is going on with me or my insights about something interesting. If I am inspired to write more, I certainly won’t stop myself. But slow and steady is going to win this race, and so I hereby slow myself down, set an easier course, and proceed.
I hope you find this journey interesting—at least as a cautionary tale. I will be glad to have you along for the journey, failures included.