For the longest time I would respond to the question “What do you write?” with “Pretty much anything you’ll pay me to write…except poetry.”
It’s not that I don’t like poetry.
And it’s not that I can’t write poems.
It’s that I am not particularly drawn to write poems and I have never worked on my skills in that area.
I am much more comfortable in other forms or word work and I haven’t felt the need to dig into poetry.
And, of course, given how my brain works, I was forgetting that poets work in drafts the same as every other writer…the same as any other creative person.
Then, recently, I received Sage Cohen’s newsletter in which she mentioned her book Write a Poem a Day: 30 Prompts to Unleash Your Imagination and I was intrigued.
Could I write a poem every day for 30 days?
Well, if I didn’t worry about writing a *good* poem, I probably could.
And since lots of people write a poem a day in April (it’s poetry month!), it seemed like a good time to give it a whirl.
I didn’t officially join a challenge or anything, I just decided to putter along with it by myself.
And the first two days have been really interesting.
As I mentioned above, I had previously forgotten that poets wouldn’t just be able to create a perfect poem on the first try but I had come to realize that poets do drafts just like anyone else.
However, I hadn’t really thought about what that would mean from a ‘getting down to work’ standpoint.
I mean, when I need to write prose, I have long since abandoned the idea that I need to be inspired…
Wait, that’s not completely true.
My conscious mind has abandoned that idea but it still floats around my subconscious and keeps me from getting started sometimes. It’s only when I actually turn my conscious attention to a slow-starting project that I realize I have been waiting for inspiration.
In fact, ‘Are you waiting for inspiration?’ is the first thing on my list of check-in questions for when I am feeling stalled.
I am a professional writer. I know that inspiration often only kicks into gear once you are already writing.*
But, I guess, unconsciously, I saw poetry as something different, something a little more inspiration-fuelled.
However, on Saturday, April 1, when I read Sage Cohen’s prompt for day 1 and sat down with my notebook, I wasn’t inspired but I was determined.
So I did the same thing I do at the beginning of any writing project, I started putting words on paper,
And then I rearranged those words.
And then I added some more.
Took some away.
And then I had a poem.
Not a great but a decent one. Definitely one that I could shape into something better if I worked on it a bit more.
It was a really cool realization.
The process was the same. I could use the exact same skills and produce something entirely different.
Now, I’m not saying that two days of poems makes me a poet. And poetry commissions won’t be a thing.
But it has been amazing to realize that I can express ideas in poems by just sitting down and working at them.
I don’t need to know anything else.
I don’t need to build my skills first.
I can just keep moving words around until they end up in the right places.
And it’s fun.
*Yes, sometimes it shows up first and I am drawn to the page but mostly I decided to start writing and the act of getting started pulls inspiration to me.