I Am About To Write 100 How-To Essays


I have been using a mood tracker for the past several months, and it forces you to “name” your mood.  (They don’t mean you should name it something like “Jared” — although what a cute idea, huh?) I find this annoying; I want to just rate myself from 1 to 5 and track the date, but I have no choice. A few months in, a word cloud has developed, and I’ve noticed a pattern. After, “Fuck You Mood Tracker, I Don’t Have To Tell You My Mood,” my most common mood-name entry is “Stuck.”

My friend Mary sends emails to me sometimes that say, “Honey, I think you are in the weeds.” By this she means that she thinks I am so utterly bogged down with things to do that I can’t see my way out. And in most ways, this is accurate. Nothing about my life choices has been remotely linear, and now I hold a fully fleshed-out existence that can only be described as a sort of pastiche of divergent paths. Mine is the Frankenstein’s monster of adulthoods: I have no idea how to concisely answer questions like, “What do you do?”; “What do you teach?”; “What do you write?”; “How do you spend your free time?”; “Whom are you dating?”; “Dietary restrictions?”; etc. Having all these different versions of Self makes it so I spend the bulk of my time trying to figure out how to transition from one thing to another.

But if we’re being totally honest here — and we are, because that is what a blog is for — some of the weeds are self-imposed. Sometimes, when the path appears clear, I grab the nearest weed-like thing and hide behind it so I don’t have to return any phone calls or solve any problems; I can continue to blame my issues on my life weeds*, and I can keep answering each and every question that comes my with a firm, “I don’t know.” That’s simpler. I prefer it.

Well, no longer. I am nothing if not a project person. I learned to draw because Zoe Boekbinder challenged me** to draw 100 portraits in 100 days once; I’d never given drawing any kind of serious thought before then. I learned how to do a push-up because I bought a book that insisted on 12 weeks of daily outdoor fitness training. I am going to get out of the weeds by doing the one thing I refuse to do for myself: answer some damn questions.

In truth, this is not that unusual for me. I like giving advice to other people. When problems are categorically Not My Own, I consider them very easy to solve. My hope is that I will go beyond writing essays like “How To Substitute Eggs” (that’s what I’m posting today, by the way), and begin writing essays like “How To Stop Ingratiating Yourself To People,” and “How To Believe In Your Own Capacity As A Teacher.” We shall see. Doing something 100 times means you practice, and practicing makes you better. I have written probably 100 essays already on that very subject. (I am extremely practiced on writing about the merits of practice.)

Feel free to email me if there’s an essay you’d especially like me to do (or throw your ideas in the comments). My goal is to make lovely little charts to go with most of these, but who knows what will evolve. I appreciate that you, Person Who Has Read To The Bottom of This Self-Interested Explanatory Note, are willing to bear witness to this experiment. I’ll see you on the other side.


*”Life weeds” sort of sounds like a venereal disease, but I don’t know why it does.

** OK, she didn’t exactly challenge me, specifically, to do anything. She challenged all her friends to join her in doing one creative thing every day and logging it. I picked portraits. This totally changed my life. Thanks, Zoe.

Sophie Lucido Johnson1 Comment