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:
my day job
the Poetry Grind itself
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.
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.