The Alphabet Sufficiency: brief reflections

At the beginning of the year, I was indirectly responsible for the creation of the formidable Alphabet Supremacy project, which has just wrapped up. Jono and Bice have a few reflections on it at mid-year (Jono, Bice) and end-of-year (Jono).

I was frankly jealous, and, trying to know my limits, created a shorter project, the intended six week Alphabet Sufficiency. This resulted in five weeks worth of posts from me, and I think four from Martin Pool (who shared them in a non-public forum). Mine were:

Of these, my favourite by far is the acceleration one. I can remember writing it: well past the deadline, from a hotel room in Honolulu, while experiencing the second-worst case of jetlag I’ve ever had, with Andrew no doubt wondering about my priorities in reconstructing the web walks I’d been detailing to him for the month prior, rather than sleeping.

Priorities were generally a problem. At the beginning, I wrote:

If the amount of personal change and variability of energy levels I experienced in 2012 continues I will be living in a leper colony on the Moon by December 2013.

Not as it happens, but I will be wrapping up the year with one more degree and one more child than I started it with. Those entries are over February, March and April this year, during which time (on top of my job) I made the “minor corrections” needed to complete my PhD thesis (this resulted in 20 pages of additional text, about 10% of the length of the final document), took my hopefully one-and-only overnight long haul flight in sole charge of a distressed toddler, and visited California for a long and intense week of planning for the Ada Initiative. If Martin had given a prompt for the final week, it would have been due the week I found out I was pregnant again (a week which involved, I think, three sudden medical appointments to plan my pregnancy care in light of a pretty weird medical history).

If I recall, Martin suggested that we start the project ASAP because neither of us was going to get less busy. While this was perfectly true, from my end this probably suggested not starting the project at all, because I really didn’t have time for it.

I began the year feeling like “write more” was the resolution least suited to me of anything I could possibly resolve. I’m ending it feeling the opposite. The most obvious thing that founding a business, study, illness, pregnancy and parenting have taken from me in the last two years is writing. On the other hand, I don’t think that for me personally, resolutions or competition are the way to get it back. The only way out is through. When I have stability, I will pause for breath, and I will write. Ursula Le Guin says:

What inspired you to be a writer?

Learning to write, at five.

That is not quite true for me (in no respect do I claim to be comparable to Ursula Le Guin, which as a small benefit makes me a less testy interview subject) but my relationship with writing is something like that. If there is time and energy, writing is something I will do.

As for the specifics of the project, one-word prompts are surprisingly difficult. Over on Dreamwidth at the moment, some people are taking a prompt a day for the entire month (I am not, for reasons you can infer), and, looking at the prompts, I can easily imagine it would be easier by far for me to write a response to “tell me about a day you spent in your favourite city” than “City”. I found this just as bad for a word I chose: “Kin” was by far the hardest prompt. Having stumbled at the gate, “Acceleration” and “Favourite” were very deliberate pitches to something I was thinking a lot about at the time anyway (general relativity and the plot of Toy Story, respectively), in an attempt to construct a gimme for myself. Despite the superficial difficulty of never having been to Montreal, that was the easiest entry to write: I suspect that the more concrete the word, the easier the writing.

If I was to take on such a project again, it would be more like the interview meme or the December meme, with far more detailed prompting. One word prompts are a very hard place between writing about whatever the hell I feel like, and writing to a prompt. I’m waiting to see what the next baby is like before committing, but there’s always the possibility of the “parent to newborn pretends to be well-rounded” meme (results: one, two, three, four, five). Stand by.