Tuesday, March 15, 2005

100 Cups of Coffee: Thank you, and Good Night!

Thanks for coming, everyone! This experiment is essentially at an end. I've got to do a few tweaks here and there, and make sure I filled out all the placeholder entries, but I'm done with the regular updates.

Was the experiment a success? I'm not sure. I learned from it, which was the point. It would have been nice to have more comments, but then, I never went out of my way to promote this blog, and my entries were, for the most part, pretty mundane and non-controversial. Not the sorts of things that really warrant comments! I also picked the worst time to do this blog. December through March are my most boring months out of the year. I strive to be a complete recluse, hiding under the blankets and seldom doing anything more than watching TV. The rest of the year I lead a life of action and adventure, I assure you!

I recommend doing something like this to everyone. Take a subject that is static and non-controversial and write about it for far longer than is sensible. Try to keep it interesting. Try never to repeat yourself. I've never heard of this as an excercise for developing one's writing skills, but it is definately a good workout.

I think I cheated too many times, though. I am dissappointed in myself for that. I think too many entries were shaggy dog stories. If you're not familiar with that term, a shaggy dog story is a long, rambling tale that purports to be about a shaggy dog, but after going on and on about nothing to do with a shaggy dog, the narrator says, "and then a shaggy dog walked by..." and continues with the rambling. I felt like too many times I said, "blah blah blah, and then I drank a cup of coffee, blah blah blah." I think a bigger challenge would have been to write about 100 cups of coffee but not bring in any information that doesn't directly relate to the cup of coffee. It'd also be a good way to go crazy! But what a divine madness it would be. You'd be the best writer about coffee in the world by the time you were done.

I am more pleased with the photos than I am with my writing. I think they managed to stay focused specifically on the coffee more than the writing did. I also think they improved more over time than the writing did.

I am not sure I actually wrote anything good in this blog. But it is hard to have perspective. When I feel like I've written something good is when the writing writes itself and it just flows out, and when I stop I can't really remember what I've written. That never happened with this blog. It happened with my novel, mid-way through the third chapter. After that the effort was just keeping my body moving long enough for the words to get out. The book wrote itself.

I doubt that I'm done writing about coffee. I'm planning on pitching to the Bangor Daily News that they let me do a regular column on coffee. Only this time it will have a different slant. I want to find the best cup of coffee in Maine. When the SCAA gives its Golden Cup Award, they don't actually visit the coffee shop. Instead, a sample of the coffee and the water used is mailed to them, and they analyze it in a lab. To me, this is useful in establishing the ballpark, but the chemistry of the coffee is just one small part of the equation of what makes a great cup of coffee. It is atmosphere, mood and je ne sais quois. Context. So I want to travel around the state to find the best cup of coffee in it. I want it to be a community effort, too. I want people to contact me about the places they think are the best, and I will go and meet them there, and drink coffee with them, and chat. Part restaurant review, part travelogue... I want to be the Hunter S. Thompson of coffee!

You can help make this happen. If you've been reading this blog and enjoying it, please write a few kind words of praise that I can quote from. I'm putting together a press kit to send to the Bangor Daily, and having positive reviews to include would be a great thing!

I said that the next thing I wrote about was going to be about quitting coffee. I lied. To do that I'm going to need a few days when I can be completely out of circulation while I go through withdrawals, and I've got too much going on right now. It looks like July, maybe August I'll be able to spare the time.

So, next I'm going to be blogging about John Milton's Paradise Lost. Why? It is a challenge. It is a great poem, but it has been analyzed and written about so much. What new does anyone have to say about it? I certainly bring nothing to the table when it comes to talking about Paradise Lost. So that is my challenge: find something new to say about Paradise Lost. Oh, and to up the ante, make it interesting reading for people who've never read it and could care less about literary analysis.

Why do I feel compelled to do these things to myself? Do other writers set out to make things difficult for themselves? When I wrote my novel, I decided to write an entire novel in four months (while I was also teaching and taking classes). I need to write another novel. I also need to edit the first one and actually do something with it, like try to get it published. My experience with the publishing industry has been so awful, though, that I am reluctant to ever deal with it again. I know there are a number of writers out there who use blogging as part of their writing, but I haven't investigated them yet, suprisingly. I should.

Anyhoo... I'll post a link to this blog when I start my next experiment, and if there's some interesting epilogue, I'll post that, too. So, thanks for reading, everyone! Have a safe drive home. Let's meet for coffee some time soon!

3 comments:

pale ale said...

Matt:

I have told many people to check out your blog. I think its kind of neat to examine the ritual of the "cup of coffee." Something so mundane really is an experience that although universal, is very personal.

I dont partake of the beverage quite as often as you do but over the course of the last 4 months whenever I have had a cup of coffee Ive wondered what number cup you were up to and would check on your site.

Ive commented before but you didnt respond to my comments so I just sort of figured you werent really looking for comments on your experiment here.

And perhaps your entries werent rivetting but I checked in often. Id read your post and think, well, my cup of coffee experience today wasnt anything like that....or it was just like that.

I thank you for your experiement.

And may your cup runneth over....on to some jerk's laptop.

Anonymous said...

Well, Matt, I'm really going to miss having coffee with you. Are you sure you don't want to go for 1000 Cups of Coffee?
And I loved the "shaggy dogness". I think that's exactly what sitting down with a cup of coffee should be.

matt leclair said...

Thanks for your kind words, Pale Ale! Sorry I didn't respond to your comments. I meant to respond to everyone's. If there is one thing I like about LiveJournal over Blogger is the way LiveJournal lets you comment on comments, whereas Blogger you just have to append your comments to the bottom of everyone else's, even if it is your own blog!

The commenting thing is tricky. In some ways this blog was a way to get over an old problem. The best things I've ever written are things that I had no intention of ever showing anyone. Then I start thinking it might be good, and I'll share it. If they like it and want to read more, I immediately seize up and start thinking about every word I write, and either writer's block ensues or I can only write crap. So here I'm writing where I know that everything is public, and I'm trying to stay focused and not let it matter. So on the one hand I really want comments because I love them and it is energizing to find out people are reading and enjoying what I've written. On the other hand, when I write and nobody comments, it is kind of liberating. I can think, "Nobody is reading this, so I don't have to worry about anything I say!"

Still, I'd like to find a better use for the medium. Blogs are such a great space for collaboration between creator and reader, and I'd love to find a way to make full use of this.

1000 Cups of Coffee?!? Maybe some day, but I have to find a different spin from what I've been doing. I feel I've learned about all I am going to using the blog-every-cup method. It just takes too much time! So much time that all my focus was on creating content and there was nothing left over for exploring the technology. I still don't know how to add a list of links to the homepage! Or how to use anything but what the standard templates provide. Or even how to drum up more traffic to the blog.

So really, I'm just getting started. Maybe there'll be "Another 100 Cups of Coffee." But not today. Today I have to finish my degree & get started on my PhD, find a new place to live, clean house, create advertiements for my new classes and and and...