17 April 2010
Writing a Poem a Day or Setting Up a Writing Practice
During the month of April many websites and organizations challenge poets to write a poem a day. Thirty days hath September, April... so thirty poems hath the poet.
In an ideal world there would be no cheating or doubling up. A poet, never suffering from a hangover; all night romantic trysts; a twelve-hour shift at the Gas-N-Go or eight loads of laundry that need to be washed, dried and folded would produce a poem every day. Ideally, it would be a verse that shines like one of the golden apples of the Hesperides. Every day the poems would grow more perfect and certain--better than the day before.
Whom are we kidding? The world isn't ideal and neither are those who write poems. The poem-a-day challenge is not a challenge to produce your best work. It is a challenge to create a daily writing practice. Can't produce a ballad a day, can you settle for a haiku? Setting the goal for one poem a day is a measureable amount of writing, even if that poem is gangly and unsteady.
One question I always ask writers is what kind of writing they practice. I don't bother with speaking about ideals. I often set outlandish goals for myself and then fall short. Writing is hard work and I want to compare notes with other authors about their workouts.
Two poets have said in interviews that they get up at four every morning to write. While I applaud them, I hope their pens don't scratch the paper too loudly. I am not a morning person. Getting up an hour early puts the lives of those in my household at risk. Knowing your patterns and habits is key to creating a writing schedule for you.
Being a night owl, I am usually at my best in the late afternoon or early evening. Teatime is the right time for writing (for me.) Writing takes practice and if I am serious about it, I can't wait for the muse to call on me. A writing practice allows me to knock on her door several times a week. Sometimes she answers and other times she draws the curtains and pretends not to be home.
Writers love to give advice about writing especially if it sounds clever. Just remember it takes some time to tune your writing schedule to real life. Allow for turbulence and improvisation.
But remember I want you write every day. I don't, but I hope you will.