The first two waves of the Daily Monster had come and gone—the excitement of the first 100 days, and all the attention that came along with the publication of the book about the experience. I was in a lull. I was looking for another daily practice I could turn into a fun website. Then it came to me: There was an untapped need for made-to-order German compound nouns. Sometimes only a Fremdwort will do.
Right then and there I was sure that this idea would take the internet by storm. Call it Überenthusiastische Zweitversuchsmanie—f. OO-bur-en-too-zee-US-tish-uh TSVAIT-fer-ZOOKS-muh-knee]—overly enthusiastic second try mania.
The site was set up as an advice column. You could write in to the Neologist, and tell him about your situation, and about the compound noun you’d need to handle it. The Neologist would then respond to you publicly. Friends and Daily Monster contributors sent in the first questions, and I went to work.
Creating the compound nouns was fun, and writing the entries entertaining. It also took a surprising amount of time. I wanted the words to hold up under scrutiny. If you’re making things up from scratch, only the first idea can come out of thin air. Everything that follows has to be the result of your figment obeying the same rules as everything else in the world. That sort of thing takes quality control, and quality control takes time. Each post was taking me a few hours—too long to comfortably get back into a regular flow of a blog entry a day. The Daily Monsters actually took longer to draw, film, process and post, but for me drawings offer higher gratification. I get to see a creature come to life before my eyes. Here, I was just piling up words. I liked what I was writing, but it wasn’t the same. It wasn’t enough to get me back into the groove.
With the Daily Monsters there was also the huge push that comes with an audience. People loved the drawings right from the start, and let me know they were waiting for each new post. The Neologist wasn’t drawing a crowd, so it was easier to skip a day. And once you skip one day, your project has sprung its first leak.
It took me a while to figure out what kept The Neologist from drawing a crowd. It wasn’t just the lack of daily eye candy. If you wanted to participate in the Daily Monster project, all you had to do was post a comment. Something as simple as “This one’s called Marvin.” or “I think she likes ice cream.” would do the trick. To become part of this new site, you’d have to think of a situation or a problem, and you’d have to write a little letter about it. And then you had to wait for me to get my lazy ass in gear. And that was the biggest problem, of course.
At first it would take a few days, then months would go by. I still have five or six requests from 2010 in my inbox today. To build an audience, there has to be enough new content at reliable intervals—every morning by 9 o’clock sharp, say—for people to make your site part of their routine. At that point in my life, I simply didn’t have the stamina to make that happen.
All told, I managed 16 entries in two and a half years. Shameful paucity. But what I did write in response to people’s letters is fun stuff. I think. Check it out at neologist.org if you’re interested. (It’s “dot org” because it’s a public service.) One of these days I’ll get back to it, I swear, if only to answer the remaining letters and to assuage my Blogverweisungsschuldbewußtsein—n. BLOG-fer-VUI-zoongs-SHOOLT-guh-fool—my blog orphaning consciousness of guilt.