Poetry Grind update

So, I’m on Day 20 of the 30-day Poetry Grind exercise. I haven’t had time to post about it because I’m writing every day and I’m worn out! Woo!

There are ten people in my group. We’ve only lost one person along the way. That means nine people have been consistently sending out a draft a day, to all the others. This is completely amazing to me. These people are serious about poetry.

Some observations, in no particular order:

1. The generosity of the medium.

You can write a poem about absolutely anything. I can’t talk about what other people have written (wish I could!), but some of my topics included:


hearing aids

cosmetology school


my day job

12-step programs

the Poetry Grind itself


2. Community.

It is really, indescribably great to get to read other people’s poems every day. This will make you look forward to your inbox. Getting to see “invisible” work: the daily work of exploring a form or a theme, the daily work of hammering away at something. I get familiar with other people’s preferred forms, and I start paying more attention to my own. I see that somebody else is willing to write about x thing, and I feel like I have permission to write about x thing.

Thinking about this experience versus the classroom/workshop experience, there’s just no comparison at all. There is real value to reading someone else’s work over the long haul, in an intensive way, especially seeing the false starts and the different angles we all try in order to get inside an idea. It opens your ears to ways of thinking and approaching the work that I haven’t gotten anyplace else.

3. Conservation of energy.

You are not allowed to respond at all. GENIUS. I find it exhausting sometimes, in a workshop, to give feedback. This way, I get all the intellectual engagement but I get to reserve my energy for my own writing.

4. Discipline.

I am forced not only to generate, but I also feel motivated to get things to a respectable place. Having an audience, even if they aren’t reading what you send, pushes me to write better things. I put a lot more effort into these drafts than I would without that impetus. I don’t give up as easily. Because I feel like, if I’m asking someone to even glance over this thing, I can make it a little better. Not perfect, just a little better than I would have otherwise left it.

A friend of mine recently quoted somebody as saying that overcoming writer’s block is about the patience to keep writing even when you’re writing terrible stuff. I’ve become willing to start over and over until I get something that starts to click.

5. Cutting your losses.

Because I’m on a deadline (midnight each night) I’ve started abandoning things that don’t work, very quickly.

Having to do it every day encourages me to let go of the previous day’s effort and move on. I know I’ll come back to a lot of these pieces, but right now, I don’t have to. This is writing as a process, not a product.

6. Poetry First!*

I love my real-world writing group, but it’s a mixed group of poetry/prose, and I often write prose in it. There is nothing like having a group of just poets.

7. Conservation of momentum.

There is no slacking. Some days, you write a three-page rant. Some days, you write a three-line blurb that you wring out of your brain at the last minute. It doesn’t matter. You keep your hand in.


* This reminds me of Portlandia’s Women and Women First.

women and women first


So I’ve been giving some thought to the function and structure of this blog. My original vision was of a communal excercise… but shockingly, all the peeps I’d like to have writing with me here are crazy busy, and also busy putting their writey goodness, rightfully, to better purposes.

Where does that leave me? Well, I still like the idea of this space as an outlet, a place to think aloud. Because I have other writing outlets, this one sometimes gets neglected for long stretches of time. I’d kind of like that to change? But I’m not sure it’s gonna? Wow, way to commit.

I’d also like this to be more personal, and more interesting, and less pedantic, because pedantic is a huge problem of mine and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

So here are the proposed changes around here.

Change the First. Blah blah blah, less precious.

Change the Second. I’m biting the bullet and migrating the blog over to my own name. Because a) Me me me. And b) I could never, ever remember the exact web address to save my life. Going forward, if you wanna look me up, all you have to do is spell my name right. We’ll work on pronunciation later.

I started The Poetic License as an outlet for writery thoughts, from which it… occasionally… drifted… off topic. Uh, oops? I still can’t promise that all my posts will be 100% germane to the writing life and its discontents. WHATEVER. Just roll with it.

A special note on the weird photos: These are most definitely not going to change. Because there is almost nothing I like better than weird photos, taken with a totally inadequate camera. There’s a metaphor here. Give me some time and I’ll write a poem about it.

There’s probably gonna be more cursing. Sorry about that.

In poetry news, there’s so much great stuff going on; mainly – that a poet friend talked me into this craziness. (It’s awesome! It’s insane! I’m losing my mind! In a good way!) Stick around to hear all about it.