It has been over a month since I finished writing a poem every day for a year. Once every 24 hours for 365 days I sat down to write a new poem from scratch. I have enjoyed the break this last month from late nights writing poetry by LCD screen. I will admit that I have not spent the entirety of the last month thinking of more poems, editing my overflowing supply of poems, or even contemplating the benefits of writing a poem every day for a year. But it was a unique experience, and I learned a great deal in the process about poetry, writing, and habits. Here are a few of those lessons.
There were streaks of time when everything I wrote felt flat to me. Sometimes for a week or more at a time the poems would feel rote and if there was a spark to them I couldn’t see them. The poems that I loved also came in waves. There were days when I felt like I was sinking three pointers shot after shot. It felt great, and I don’t even like basketball.
Writing every day, I frequently found myself writing despite my mood, inspiration, or interest. I’ve had poems that I really like come out of boredom, regret, dissatisfaction, as well as their opposites. Honest exploration or at least acceptance of my emotional state helped me produce writing that I liked more often than the days I “lied”.
I’m not proud of a lot of the poems I wrote this year and that’s fine. I’ve known I wanted to write since I was ten years old. I remember the second I announced my ambition to my Mom, yet I’ve usually shied away from finishing writing projects for over a decade – in large part due to a fear of producing something so bad that it was clear I had no business writing. The truth is Frank Herbert is right, “fear is the mind killer.” Many bad poems and novels must be written before stumbling on a couple good ones. And in the end I found that I was not writing to produce those few good poems. I was writing because I loved writing, rhymes, and words, producing a few good poems was an added blessing.
One of the downsides of posting poems the same day I wrote them was that I only had time to do a quick pass for spelling, grammar, and other minor improvements before posting them. I now have a 370-page document of poems that I plan on sorting through and editing during the coming year, and I’m sure I will find something to edit on every single poem. My sincere thanks and appreciation to my friends and followers who read all these first drafts. If you have a poem or two you especially liked, please let me know. Feedback is helpful as I begin to dig into editing.
I was surprised how quickly writing became part of my routine. I even started resenting it the same way I resent other habits I’ve established. “It’s 11pm, I’m in bed, and I forgot to brush my teeth” easily became “It’s 11pm, I’m in bed, and I have to write my poem. But it also became something that I needed to do in the same way that I need to brush my teeth or shower to feel prepared in the morning.
This can be both good and bad. During the last year I cut different things out of my day when necessary because I was prioritizing writing. However, the other side is that the habit of writing that I took a year to cultivate, took only a week to disappear.
This is what excites me still about writing a poem every day. There is poetry everywhere waiting to be recognized and pointed out. I saw a man walking in plaid sweatpants, a sunhat, and a plunger, a church sign I disagree with, a father holding his son, LaLa Land, traffic jams , and a field on a cold day. I walked with eyes a little more open since starting this project last year, and I hope you will too.