Tuesday, 7 May 2013

NaPoWriMo 2013 (or: what I learned in April)

So, this year I took part in NaPoWriMo for the first time - how did writing 30 poems in 30 days go?

You can see the (mixed) results at http://fayrobertsnapowrimo.blogspot.com and here, for my fellow-nerds, are some statistics (straight in - no messing):
  • Pieces written: 30
  • Finished: 30-Apr-13
  • Shortest piece: #3 Suddenly, at 3:45am - senr
  • Longest piece: #7 Excel Now - a series of seven chained pieces of various formats
  • Fullest day(s): 12th, 18th, and 26th - 3 pieces each
  • Longest gap with no pieces: 3 days
  • Forms employed: blank verse; free verse; haiku/ senryū (chained or individual); tanka; sonnet; terzanelle; triolet; acrostic
  • Themes explored: seasons; love and relationships; health and illness; true stories; religion, magic, and mythology (lots of these); triumphing over crap
  • Sources of inspiration: weather; crazy taxi-driver (person rather than game!); a witty friend's Facebook status; holiday in France; number associations; patron saints (St. George's Day); the difficulties of focusing on revision;The Bible; politics; The Louvre; public transport; my sign language teacher; NaPoWriMo itself
  • "Official" prompts used: tanka, triolet
  • Coincidental prompts (i.e. when it turned out I'd done a poem with the same theme or prompt for myself as others had used - usually on different days): in media res; mythological personae; un-love; fragments of languages other than English.

But how did that make you feeeeel...?

By turns ennervated and elated, mixed in with grim determination and workmanlike satisfaction at a job at least completed. Disappointed (and mildly embarrassed) that some of them should never have seen the light of day ordinarily - I rarely share poems until I'm at least 80% sure of them, but shocked at the ones that turned out Proper. Buoyed up by feedback. One of the things that really kept me going was, paradoxically, sharing them as I went along, and getting positive feedback (everything from seeing how many Facebook "likes" and Blogger hits the posts got, to the well-structured comments of people who a) enjoyed them, b) actually read them properly, c) clearly knew what they were talking about).

I'm now engaged in what experienced (and wonderfully supportive!) NaPoWriMo'er Martin Vosper calls NaPoEdMo - yes, May: National Poetry Editing Month... Fellow-RRRanter Ant Smith has made an e-book of his. I know for certain that only about 60% of mine are worth much more than cringing lightly over and saying "oh well, they fulfilled a purpose", but it would be nice to get the good ones (about 5?) out there accompanied by the ones that just need a bit of editing and polishing to fulfill more of their potential.

But here's a weird thing I've found since end of April and it turns out I'm not the only one who took part who's experiencing this - I've been writing more poems since. At the beginning of the challenge, writing was taking it out of me, and I'd feel drained of creativity and blank. Now it's like I'm apt to find inspiration from lots of things and instead of going "oh, huh, I could probably make a poem out of that" and it never seeing the light of day, I immediately start to write it down... Like I no longer get in my own way...

I made the terrible mistake of joking to an athletic friend that NaPoWriMo was like a marathon. They were immediately incensed and offended. Having trained for and run half-marathons they could not see the humour in the statement and were convinced I was at best delusional. The argument quickly became both bitter and sarcastic on both sides.

The thing of it is that I have stretched and developed poetic/ creative muscles that I thought were pretty buff to start with, discovering how very wrong I was. Owing to certain physical frailties, I will never run a marathon, or half-marathon. This is not hyperbole or cowardly giving-up but a plain truth which I suspect my physiotherapist would back up in a chuckling second. (Besides, it never being a dream I entertained for myself, how could it be giving up?) However, there remain a world of creative challenges to set myself, a whole plethora of targets and personal satisfactions to gain.

Performance poet Tim Clare sets himself an annual challenge of writing 101 poems in one day. That, my friends, is a poetic marathon - that's the kind of crazy shit I'd love to work up to doing, maybe as part of a team doing it for charity - sponsor us a certain amount per poem perhaps - while people milled around us and flung suggestions. It's likely been done before, but how cool would that be?! :D

Lessons learned (for next NaPoWriMo/ writing challenge/ writing in general):
  1. Just fucking write - no excuses, just do it.
  2. Set yourself goals and concrete challenges.
  3. Do your own time (thanks, Neil Gaiman) - by all and any means encourage people who're doing it too, but your first focus is the challenge.
  4. Join a writer's group. Flesh-space or webby, that feedback and encouragement will do bloody wonders.
  5. Ask friends to help you - feedback or proof-reading or suggesting stuff or whatever. Chances are good that both you and they will be chuffed that you did.
  6. Just fucking write.
  7. Don't force the writing into a shape you think it should be.  Like any artform, it has its own shape and a major part of your job is to uncover that, rather than dictate it.  This is an organic process.
  8. Did we mention just fucking writing?
  9. Put time aside in the day.
  10. If an idea comes to you, don't assume you'll "get around to it later" - write it down. In this age of smartphones and tablet and whatever, the chances that you won't have something you can scribe on/ with are vanishing small, but while we're on that topic, always have a pen/ pencil/ crayon and notebook with you - preferably one that is dedicated to the project/ creative writing in general.
  11. Anything can be a source of inspiration. Seriously.  Pick a thing and write down the colours, shapes, sounds, memories that come with it.  Follow the shape its trying to show you and voilà: writiness.
  12. Just. Fucking. Write.
Well, I think that's it from me.  Have fun, enjoy the poems, and I'll let you know when they're (edited and) in a form that you can fondle...

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