The moment that spurred Spencer Tweedy to write daily observations began when a man with a white handlebar mustache in Union Park ate whole dill pickles out of a Ziploc bag. With a distinct moment like this one—the kind that reminds you that you live in a big city—Tweedy realized doing something small each day leads to something larger. After 365 days of Tweedy writing at least a sentence each day on his blog, this daily practice led to 144 pages filled with 410 “nuggets of life” and fifty-two risograph prints designed by Lauren Gallagher, comprising his chapbook “Observations: Year One.”
Tweedy takes snapshots with his eyes and processes those moments through the darkroom of his writing. In what began as a way to get himself to write more, Tweedy finds power both in cultivating curiosity as an active skill and in giving small things space to expand, instead of being bogged down by structuring larger paragraphs or pages. After all, he writes that working on his curiosity is to “invest a little bit of energy in learning more or discovering other things like it.”
Of the hundreds of entries from Tweedy’s everyday life, “Observations” contains many scenes and thoughts filled with genuinely interesting or funny moments. Tweedy occasionally gets Instagram messages from students in Eastern Europe who read textbooks that use Tweedy’s face as an example of a teenage American blogger. Some lines in the book, like “Hammered barbacks on a seesaw,” stick out like imagist poetry. More often than not, the book includes one-sentence descriptions of something (or someone) oddly standing out in a given setting, like a person with a yo-yo in a belt holster.
It reads somewhere between a remix of his blog and a chapbook, which isn’t a bad thing, but as a larger project that’s part blog, part diary, part zine and part creative writing exercise, “Observations” can feel disparate since it’s so freewheeling. This chapbook did not set out to be a collection of essays. The book is a light read that can be picked up and put back down without a problem.
“Observations” is the kind of book to keep in a bag for riding the bus. You might bring it out to pass the time, or bring out a notebook or a notes app when there are people and things to notice. In this way, “Observations” is a reminder that even the most mundane days can be memorable, and sometimes, a moment in a day can reveal a nugget of truth.
“Observations: Year One”
By Spencer Tweedy
Self-published, 144 pages
Colin S. Smith is a music writer, band manager, and musician based in Chicago. He’s previously written about Chicago bands for Culture Collide, Post-Trash, POND Magazine, among several other publications, and he creates music in his psych-soul band Pleasures.