Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Thirty Days of Poetry

I decided to write and post a daily poem for 30 consecutive days for the following reasons:

1. I'd fallen out of love with writing. It had become another pressure, instead of a happy wandering. I've been wrangling with the same novel for three years, and I thought it had beaten me. I didn't even care that it had beaten me, particularly, but I did care that I didn't seem to care.

Poetry is the purest form of writing for me. If it couldn't pull me back, then maybe I wasn't really a writer anymore.

2. I use my slowness as an excuse not to write. Writing can feel like digging to me. Or rather, the process of editing and revision feels that way, which often segues into paralysis. I usually tackle writing--even poetry--from the left side of my brain because it feels safer. I fall too much in love with an idea, a construction. I don't trust my instincts. I make things complicated because I'm drawn to metaphor and puzzles (not to mention second-guessing myself), forgetting that simplicity is the poet's most sincere and transparent friend.

Being forced to pen and reshape a poem every day seemed like a good way of combatting this tendency to fuss things up, if for no other reason than I wouldn't have the time to be as clever as I might wish.

3. Winter. This is my worst time of year for being withdrawn and contemplative. Anyone can write a poem a day in the springtime; they practically float from the trees. To push them out during the darkest stretch of winter seemed especially challenging, but also like a good way of channeling some of that introspection and making me appreciate that bleakness can still be beautiful, especially with so much love and good fortune at my side.

4. Photos. I am no great photographer, but I had a collection of photos I hadn't used on the blog before (in addition to some that I had) that I had forgotten all about. I really enjoyed taking my camera out when I was blogging more often, and I wanted to reclaim that habit by pairing each new poem with a new or old photo.

So those were my reasons. (Actually, in no way did I reason this all out before impulsively making the decision to do it. But we can all pretend.)

And how did the experiment go?

1. I did fall in love with writing again. I also hated it again. I'm pretty sure this is normal. I'm pretty sure I've always felt this way, no matter my tendency to romanticize the past.

Writing a poem a day is no great feat. A lot of people do this without any fanfare. But for me, it was hard. Yet maybe not as hard as I expected? I tried not to place ridiculous amounts of pressure on myself. There were only a handful of days in which I struggled to come up with an idea or finish by a particular time. Overall, I surprised myself. Which is always good.

2. I did not overcome my tendency to complicate things, nor did I always present my ideas in a clear, transparent light. The rough drafts came easy. But I'm still doing a lot of tinkering. The time constraint led me to post a lot of poems I wasn't particularly happy with. I tried to pretend I didn't mind. Then I tinkered some more the next day.

I still struggle with expressing myself without embarrassment or regret.

Room to grow, for sure.

3. Winter is my bitch now.

Okay, but seriously: some of these poems could use more cowbell spring.

4. My camera is feeling well-loved again. Mission accomplished.

(Random spider pic)

I suppose I should make a good charge at finishing that novel now. I'm not sure what's causing the delay. I was sort of hoping this poetry diversion would offer some enlightenment on the subject.

I think it's the distance between my vision and the execution. I want it to be perfect, and it's not. The pursuit of perfection is not only the enemy of the good, but sometimes, the authentic. I can't stand my own contrivances, yet what is a novel but an author's contrived manipulations of character and plot? What is revision but the endless second-guessing of your gut instincts, the very thing I'm trying to be more accepting of in myself?  I get tangled up in such silliness.

But that's likely another blog post.

Thank you for reading any part of this month's output. I really do appreciate your kindness and support.


Anonymous said...

Sarah, I enjoyed reading this post almost as much as I enjoyed the poetry you crafted and shared this month. As someone who does not "poet"--unless Catherine Vibert makes her--I stand in no small amount of awe at what you accomplished here. I know you are a natural poet, but to come up with one a day--these--is, for me, incredible.

Thank you for sharing them. You didn't have to, of course. You could have written them and kept them for yourself with no pressure. But we are all the better for your having taken that risk.

I hope the novel calls to you again. The characters are in limbo now, in a way, and I think they want to move. Easy for me to say, I know. Do as I say, not as I do? :)


Charles Gramlich said...

I don't like to get started writing. I love it once I'm started. I certainly couldn't do a poem a day, although maybe I should challenge myself in some similar way sometime. You did good!

Sarah Hina said...

Jennifer, you do a whole hell of a lot, you know.

I'll get those characters moving again soon. We were all just very tired of one another, I think. Maybe I should turn on some Bach. :)

Thank you for everything you said here. I probably wouldn't have posted the poems if I didn't have such great friends and readers who I could count on to accept them so generously.

Charles, starting is definitely the greatest hurdle.

And thank you for that vote of confidence! I really appreciated all your comments throughout this month.

strugglingwriter said...

I too am struggling with my novel.

But you know what, I'm reading your post here and I had an idea...

Perhaps I'll write 30 250 word pieces of flash fiction set inside my novel and post them to my blog. This SEEMS like it might get my mind working on ideas and get me unstuck. Hmm.

Anyway, thanks for this.

Paul (paulliadis.com/blog)

Sarah Hina said...

That's a really interesting idea, Paul. Sometimes small flashes can reveal the larger arc.

I say go for it. :)

Peter Dudley said...

Hooray for falling in love with writing again. Personally, I think a poem a day is a pretty difficult thing to do.

Sarah Hina said...

Peter, thank you for that. It IS, darn it. :)

the walking man said...

*ahem* my prove you're a human verification is comejoy####

I think I will simply copy the word and paste it into the box and add the numbers. That says enough.

Sarah Hina said...

Mark, Comejoy deserves a poem of its own!

Thanks for being with me during these 30 days, and all the rest of them too.

Wendy said...

Love the recap. I think it's a huge feat to sustain a commitment to post 30 days in a row, let alone 30 days of thoughtful writing. (I MIGHT be able to post 30 days of funny videos or LOL cats, but I'm not even sure that's a 100% guarantee.)

Sarah Hina said...

Thanks, Wendy. I think it was good for me.

In fact, I think I need to set more challenges for myself like that. I already feel myself growing stale and complacent again.

Stephen Parrish said...

I won't say which one was my favorite, because then I wouldn't be able to claim it as my own. I hope this experience benefits you; I suspect it will in ways you don't yet realize. The effort has certainly made this corner of Blogtopia a better place.

It's thanks to you that I began, a few years ago, taking poetry more seriously, even writing some of my own. Every wave affects every other: I'm about to give someone her first-ever publication, a poem waiting in the queue. She'll thank me. In turn, unbeknownst to her, she'll be thanking you.

I don't know where you are in your manuscript, but I know where you should aim.

Sarah Hina said...

Steve, I owe plenty of waves and ripples to you, too.

Thank you for everything.

My personal favorite was #12. I just love the image of that guy on the beach, bravely being himself. It's the one that made me smile biggerest.

Vesper said...

Sarah, you are an inspiration.
I loved all the poems and I couldn't stop being amazed at your way of putting words together, of extracting the essence of things and serving it in such exquisite ways... Thank you for all of them.

As for writing your novel... it's the revisions, the tinkering that beat me too. But then I ask myself why? Is it because I've done it excessively that my heart is no that much with the novel anymore? Is it boredom? Is it because something is lacking, something does not satisfy me in the novel itself?

Start something new. Give it a longer rest than the 30 days of poetry and then maybe it will call to you again... That's what I'm doing.


Aniket Thakkar said...

As Kurt Vonnegut says in 8 Basics of Creative Writing:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

See the 7th point? Write to please just one person.

Obviously, that person is me. Jazz may think it's her, but we both know it's the lie she lives in. So when it comes down to it, the sole purpose of your writing that novel is to please me. Doesn't sound that much of a task now, does it?

Well, get on with it then. Shoo.

Sarah Hina said...

Vesper, I'm so sorry for not responding to your beautiful comment before now. I've been feeling low lately. <3

Thank you for sharing those 30 days with me and for all your lovely words. As for the novel--I think I'm as mystified as you are concerning revisions. I sometimes blame myself for being lazy, but it's not really that. I'm simply useless at writing if I'm feeling alienated from the story. Or if I have too much invested in it and don't feel up to solving the challenges. So I wait. And wait. And wait...

Anyway, I hope you've been feeling your novel again. If it helps at all...you should know that I would be a very eager reader, whenever the time should come. :)

Aniket, in general I've come to hate writing rules, but I have to admit--those are some pretty damn good writing rules. ;)

For me, the problem comes in convincing myself that what I have to say--that the story I have to tell--actually matters. If I can't convince myself, then I'm going to have problems convincing anyone else. There's a certain deceit that comes with writing and you have to fool yourself firstly and totally. Lately I've struggled with that part.

Thanks for reading the rest of these poems. You really didn't have to comment on all of them, but you're a dear for doing so, and now I will write to please you and only you.*

*And Jennifer, too.


Vesper said...

Sarah, there's no need to apologize. I'm sorry you've been feeling low... I know what you mean.
You're describing much of what I feel about my novel. I still like the idea and many scenes, but there are others that I don't like at all, yet I don't have the energy right now to even start thinking about them.
You're a good friend and I want to take you up on the offer of reading my draft - whenever there will be any... Much appreciated! :-)

Sarah Hina said...

Of course, Vesper!

Fear has a lot to do with my novel avoidance. Sometimes it's hard for me to dissect everything I'm scared of.

But friends help. :) Thank you.