On the first day of this year, I sat in the pews of a medieval cathedral in Turku, Finland, and tried to pray, which is alien to me. I tried to pray because my thoughts were gummed up with so much chatter and junk, the outrage and opinions of digital living, the residue of too much time spent behind screens. I wanted to know if it was possible to develop any type of faith these days. And underneath this desire, I had buried too many memories of grief. I had also stalled in my writing. I found myself trapped in an idiotic loop of procrastination and perfectionism, stuck with a mind that deleted words before the first keystroke. So I decided to dust off this station and commit to writing something each night for one year. Perhaps a few ideas about art, faith, and loss. Maybe some notes about each day’s events for my future self.

And now, on the last day of this year, the memory of sitting in a church in a different country feels as though it belongs to some lost golden age, like telling your kids about the days when airports did not have x-ray machines or you could smoke in supermarkets. The end of the year leaves me feeling as if I’m supposed to be reflective; I find myself hunting for insights and revelations that never arrive. And as this nightly journal ends, I feel compelled to make sense of it. My first thoughts are: 1) I do not recommend such a needlessly compulsive approach, and 2) I wish I’d picked any other year. (From February 26: “New infections are being reported. How far will this thing go? Will history record this as a blip, or is this the start of something bigger?”)

But this practice helped me develop a steady writing routine. I managed to carve out an hour each night, and I’m eager to point this habit toward books and stories. Writing 366 entries in a row also helped me reckon with my precious bullshit. I often found myself wrestling with some murky idea or failing to make a sentence behave the way I wanted—then it was two o’clock in the morning. So let it go. Good enough. There will be something new to write tomorrow.

Most of all, I appreciated the need for people I do not know. I’ve always preferred writing in museums, hotel lobbies, and train stations because these places remind me that I am a stranger. At home, I become too familiar, and my perspective narrows. In a year without the babble, mess, and wonder of people on sidewalks and subway cars or the small adventures and chance encounters that come with simply moving through the world, I found myself plumbing my memories and dreams and revisiting moments of loss. So, in the end, this exercise felt like walking away from something, a way of clearing the decks before trying something new. Which I hope is how this year feels for all of us one day when we look back in the rearview.

Thank you for reading, and here’s to a more sensible year.

Autechre – All End

NTS Session 4 | Warp, 2018 | Bandcamp