November was a month of taking on more of the “do something every day” type projects, and I think the madness needs to stop. I’ll stop every day.

This of course, is not a promise I intend to keep. I find these challenges very rewarding, especially the ones that you convince yourself that you can’t do before you try. How common is it we defeat our efforts from the start?

For a recap…

2009/365 Photos

I’m in the second year of the informal group that spring up over the idea of trying to take photographs every day, and posting our best to flickr, sharing in the 365 Photos pool.

This is one of many things I file under the strategy of Do What D’Arcy Does. In 2007, this idea was a solo project of D’Arcy Norman; I chimed in 2008, and we started the flickr group, which grew to about 120 people. In 2009, we have 238 active people, over 25,000 photos shared, and an active group discussion area (I’ve been away a while, but I see the monthly theme has made it all the way to December).

The most exciting thing about this group is that it is totally without leaders, it has no structure, and the rules are loose enough to drive Mars through it — a lot of this was covered in my February 2009 Northern Voice presentation Say/Blog It in Pictures.

I’ve heard a number of people say it is too hard, or they peter out after a month, 2 months, etc. I understand, and have no expectations or even snobbery that this is something that anyone can do. It’s really not hard; you just make sure you go out once a day and take some pictures. Frankly, after almost 2 years, it is just a part of the daily routine like brushing my teeth (which I may not do every day, oops! Sorry Dr. Fow!).

The Dailyshoot

Again, I am DWDD, as well as following the lead of Barbara Ganley, this is yet another ting to post every day to flickr, and so far, it has not been the same one as my 2009/365 photo.

For this, every day the twitter account for The Daily Shoot tweets an assignment- a specific thing we need to capture in a photo, then post it to flickr and twitter. For example, today was

Screen shot 2009-11-29 at 11.54.38 PM

In a way, this is almost easier, because we are given a goal. But it also provides an opportunity to stretch, and work hour to meet a specified topic. I’m finding myself trying to get around 3 or more variations so have something to choose from- today I got water drops as a pattern:

Water Blobs
Water Blobs flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

Ironically, in early November, I was stuck in the Portland airport because a United Flight was canceled. After I tweeted about it, D’Arcy Norman messaged my to look for this pro photographer named James Duncan Davidson who seemed to have been on the same canceled flight. I looked up his twitter profile pic, and was fairly sure I knew which one was him, but then felt a little fan-boy stalkerish walking up to someone and said, “My friend on twitter said I should say ‘hi'”. Now I regret being reluctant! Especially after leafing through his photos on flickr.

I’m only a few days in on doing the dailyshoot but it feels like a fun fresh challenge; ny dailyshoot set is at


I’d heard in the past about National Novel Writing Month, where the challenge is to write a 50000 word piece of fiction in 30 days. Writing a novel is one of those fuzzy goals that floats around in your head, like doing a parachute jump or running a marathon, and then just never get around to actually following through.

I decided this year to just say ***** It and give it a try.

I just finished tonight; my work stands now at 50239 words, and this was a super hard and effective challenge. I fell behind, some with travel, more with procrastination, but poured it on in the last week with a row of 5k and 4k writing nights.

Now I agree it is not about writing to some goal, but I agree with the project’s assertion; without some arbitrary goal, a lot of people like me would never try.

The other reason we do NaNoWriMo is because the glow from making big, messy art, and watching others make big, messy art, lasts for a long, long time. The act of sustained creation does bizarre, wonderful things to you. It changes the way you read. And changes, a little bit, your sense of self. We like that.

(emphasis added by me).

Sure, 50,000 is an arbitrary number, but the rationale is:

Our experiences over the past nine years show that 50,000 is a difficult but doable goal, even for people with full-time jobs and children. The length makes it a short novel. We don’t use the word “novella” because it doesn’t seem to impress people the way “novel” does.

We define a novel as “a lengthy work of fiction.” Beyond that, we let you decide whether what you’re writing falls under the heading of “novel.” In short: If you believe you’re writing a novel, we believe you’re writing a novel too.

The last thing I wrote of any length was in 1989, at 157 pages, when I finished my Masters thesis in Geology. 5 people have read it (my committee). It sits on my shelf gathering dust.

So of course, your question is, “Okay hot shot, where is your 50239 word novel?”

Right now it is sitting on my laptop (and in a backup location) as a really messy draft. I need a break from it before thinking about cleaning it up.

But you may counter, “Fair enough, but what is it about?”

It is called (for now) Four Way Intersection, and was really a germ of an idea I had 10 or more years ago when I was bicycle commuting to my job at Maricopa. I use a real intersection, McDowell Rd and 64th St/Galvin Parkway at the Scottsdale/Phoenix border as the location, and use a lot of settings I knew from living and biking in the area.

Let’s say it is a 4 act study of an encounter between two strangers. Each telling involves two people, one is Pat and the other is RJ, and until the end of the act, you actually don’t know their gender, but one is male and one is female. One works as an architect and the other is trying to fit in as a military vet. One drives a car and one is on a bicycle. Each story fades in with each character’s dream sequence, that sets in motion a series of events that has these two people meet at the intersection and fades out with a closing dream sequence. Then I shuffle up the characters and tell it differently.

The encounters work through 4 human themes- Anger, Love, Humor, and Ambivalence.

And just for fun, I insert myself into a cameo role in each act.

At this point, I am not sure if it is too contrived/gimmicky or just not sensible, but the point was not to write a best selling novel, but just to do the writing, and reach the goal. I likely will post it here soon, but just need to put the damned thing down.

I’m glad to be done this one.

And that leaves me with 2 daily photo chores (not to mention keeping up in running).

Featured Image: Listening Post flickr photo by Fenchurch at the time of writing was shared under a CC BY NC-ND license (Internet archive link)

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Reading this blog post this morning got me thinking. See, I participated in National Novel Writing Month in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and last year I spent several evenings surfing through your (and D’arcy’s) 365 Flickr challenge. I knew nothing about this challenge and thought anyone who wanted to shoot a photo a day for a year would be crazy, but as you wrote, “I find these challenges very rewarding, especially the ones that you convince yourself that you can’t do before you try.” It’s true.

    Today, a few hours after reading that post, it got me thinking again as I discussed Into the Wild and Chris McCandless’ foolish journey into Alaska that ultimately killed him. We challenge ourselves with those journeys we’re not sure if we can finish. Sometimes we don’t, like the young person who is not up for the challenge for a full year of AP and “drops down” to onlevel (most of whom come back later and tell me, honestly, that they’d made a bad decision). Sometimes we do, like my wife who isn’t an avid book reader and less of a writer (although I LOVE when she does because she’s hilarious!), who has just finished her own National Novel Writing Month novel.

    We have experiences that make us who we are. These define us. They are rites of passage. For Chris McCandless, it was his “Great Alaskan Adventure”. For you, it’s currently the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n Roll Marathon here in Phoenix this winter. For others, it could be getting a driver’s license, going away to college, turning 21, or a first job. For me, it could be a blog post a day for all of December. It could be finishing my own 365 day challenge which included my own face in each photo, or it could be editing 2004 novel that I’d like to share with others to get feedback from people more successful than myself, so I can be more like them because maybe I am up for the challenge of publishing. Maybe I will succeed or maybe I will fail, but I will try and I will not give up.

  2. A novel?! Wow, that is pretty awesome, nd the idea that it is just for you, and anyone else who might want to read it, makes it that much cooler. You really never cease to amaze me, you are a paragon of dogged persistence and unbounded energy. I salute you on all these projects, cause I know first hand how easy it is to commit to something, and how hard it is to actually live up to it—something you never seem to falter on. Kudos.

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