How I Started Doing A Thing That I Do; or, The Flavor

There was a time when we lived right next to one of the busiest streets in town. It feels like an understatement to say we lived within walking distance of the grocery store, the 7-11, and the office supply store where I had worked for a year during college. It was hardly a walk at all. If we needed one more onion to make dinner, pints of ice cream or bags of gummy candy to sate cravings, or resumes printed, we could get what we needed in the space of only a few minutes. Sometimes I miss it.

I wish I could remember exactly what it was we were at the office supply store for that day: someone needed the right pen for a drawing, a specific kind of battery, or maybe they needed to print a clean Dungeons & Dragons character sheet. It was almost certainly a small, immediate need. But I was there for company, since it was always worth it to come with–we were always making fun out of nothing on the way and in the aisles when we got there.

Having spent a number of long, dull hours at this particular office supply store, I knew it was always worth passing my eyes over the clearance section. Occasionally, you could find a solid pair of headphones or a sturdy new notebook for a pittance. There wasn’t much of interest there that day, which is perhaps why I was so attracted to the thing I did pick up.

For less than three dollars total, I bought a small dry erase board, with a light cyan face and silvery metal edges, along with a black marker with an eraser on its cap, all wrapped in plastic. I had no particular plan for it, but it was a cheap and handsome little set, so I couldn’t help myself. Admittedly, this is probably the exact plan of the office supply store, to get people like me to impulse buy cheap junk that wasn’t selling. But I’m glad it worked this time.

I’ve been doodling as long as I can remember. I’m not much of an artist –unlike the people I lived with at the house across the street from that office supply store–but I would always doodle. When I was small, I would ruin lots of unneeded dot matrix paper at mom’s work. When I was a little bit bigger I would draw my favorite Dragon Ball characters, their heads puny on top of hideously huge bodies made of rippling muscles. When I became as big as I am now, I would scribble whatever silly garbage I came up with, making rudimentary comics with friends out of dramatically posed stick figures.

We walked home from the store, I unwrapped the little dry erase board, and I doodled, as I had been doing, as I am still doing.

I wish I had some reason to remember the first things I committed to that board, purely for sentimental reasons. But not long after these first drawings, I had an idea: some kind of soup-of-the-day style gag I could do every week to elicit a chuckle out of my girlfriend and roommates. The first was actually, roughly, something that could conceivably be called a flavor:

Somehow, THIS drawing started it all.

But the second week I quickly decided I was going for a looser, more figurative version of flavor:

Nowadays I tend to avoid referential flavors–don’t want things to be too dated or have folks not “get it”–but this was back when it was just a gag for my roommates, of course. For the uninitiated:

I’ve been consciously and consistently writing at least a little bit every day for a little over ten years now, because I started a habit and chose to keep it. I have a history of starting habits.

After about a month of doing This Week’s Flavor, I started posting photos of the board online as well, figuring I could maybe amuse my other friends with them. This, too, is a habit I’ve chosen to keep, as I’m pushing towards four years of doing these little drawings every week.

Sometimes ideas come to me the instant I put the marker to the board, other times I sit and stew and figure it out after a period of spitballing. For a while, I had Sundays to myself and I would wake up and make doodling the flavor my first task of the day, my morning coffee. Now that I work on Sundays, I have to carve out some time on Saturday nights to have it all ready to share the next day before I leave home.

At this point, I have retired the original board for all its wear, tear, pockmarks and acne scars. I now use a fresh one with a pink plastic border, a gift from my girlfriend’s sister and  her sister’s boyfriend. This one is also starting to show a little bit of age.

Nowadays, I have friends (many of whom are far more talented draftspersons than I), who look to my Twitter or Instagram every week to see what I made this week. It is incredibly flattering that I have a small group of people who take interest in a silly, frivolous bit of work I’ve made for myself. It is incredibly flattering that a friend of mine who avoids social media still wants to see This Week’s Flavor, so we have an arrangement where I text it to him right after I post it online. It’s a part of the rhythm of the task now, part of the momentum that keeps me making these every week, and I hope I keep that rhythm for as long as it feels worthwhile.

Occasionally, most often at work, people ask why or how I started doing this. I offer whatever small answer suffices, given the circumstances. I’ll still happily provide those answers if they’re asked for, but let this be a more substantial answer for anyone who happens to care.

If anyone at all does, I’ll be flattered. It’s just a little thing I do.

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