QOTD: "In an American school if you ask for the salt in good French, you get an A. In France, you get the salt." - B. F. Skinner
Reading: Douglas Mawson, The Home of the Blizzard
Listening to: a mix CD
Decluttering accomplishments: threw out more old college notes and several magazines
Today is the last day of my experiment at daily updates. They weren't really quite daily, as I decided it was too complicated to update when I was out of town. This was actually a fairly light travel month, though, with just one business trip (to Boulder) and two personal trips (to Minneapolis and to New York). So it seems worth it to get a bit meta and talk about writing this month.
Mostly, I concluded that my life isn't really all that interesting on a daily basis. Most weekdays are just going to work, sitting in meetings and reviewing endless documents as we replan our program for the umpty-umpth time. The things that are worth writing about only become so when they're aggregated and I have time to reflect on them.
It strikes me that this is somewhat like the problem of evaluating presidents. When I was a senior in high school, our social studies program was divided into two classes. The first half of the year was sociology and the second was political science. Each half had a term paper and the one for political science had to do with evaluating the greatness of a president. The catch was that no two of us in the class were supposed to write about the same president. There were 18 kids in the class so that shouldn't have been a big constraint. I mean, it isn't like anybody was going to have to write about Millard Fillmore unless they really really wanted to. My first choice was Woodrow Wilson and, since nobody else shared my obsession with him, I got to further that obsession. But there was a lot of competition for several presidents. Since my school was less than an hour away from Sagamore Hill, it might not be surprising that Theodore Roosevelt was popular. What's more surprising is that people thought it would be easy to write about the more recent presidents - Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson.
It would be easier in the sense that we were supposed to use a lot of primary source materials. But the thing that I noticed was that you couldn't really tell the lasting impact of a president within, say, 20 years of his last term. At the time, Truman's reputation was being rehabilitated, for example. Kennedy was still being worshipped, with LBJ suffering most of the consequences of JFK's foreign policy inexperience. I had a far simpler task in that Wilson's theories about the role of the United States in the world had come to pass, despite their unpopularity in his time.
And it is exactly the same with writing about our my life. Writing about anything the day that it happens is going to be inherently shallow. It takes time and emotional distance to decide what is actually important. So daily writing ends up being a mixture of the laundry lists of events, the sporadic rants, and a rare reflection that has little to do with the day itself.
The experiment was worth it, but I won't continue it. I'm not going to regress entirely to just doing weekly entries, but daily is unlikely.
Copyright 2002 Miriam H. Nadel