NaPoWriMo 2019: How did I do?

I wrote more poems than last year so I’m taking that as a WIN.

As a poet, there are two things I’ve fallen behind on:

  • Performing my poems
  • Submitting my poems

But I am still writing poems. However, coming into April, the writing part was slipping too, so National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo) couldn’t have come at a better time.

Last year I wrote one or two poems that were so bad and so unworthy of being poems that I gave up on my ability and didn’t write anything for the rest of the month. My creative flow might have continued if it wasn’t for the whole ‘this is the month you should be writing poems!’ thing. It just made me stop and say, ‘actually, I don’t have to write IN FACT I’m not going to write at all, in protest of this month forcing me to try and write when I’m in terrible writing form.’

In actual fact I was just a lazy, un-inspired poet, which can happen for a number of reasons. However this year I was determined that NaPoWriMo would re-ignite the spark that had somehow been put out by that thing called Life.

Instead of trying to pluck words out of thin air (i.e. my mind) I sought prompts. This is when I realised that there’s an entire website dedicated to publishing prompts for NaPoWriMo, alongside useful poetry-related resources, example poems, and links to poems written during the month by various participants. If only I’d looked for it last year!

I created a Word Online document within my email OneDrive, which meant I had a working document that could contain all my poems, and I’d be able to access it anywhere as long as I had some kind of internet-enabling device. This was an important aspect of my being able to try and write daily, because I don’t usually have time to sit down with a pen, paper, and my thoughts in a peaceful and inspiring setting. But I do work on a computer a lot, so during quiet times at work I could bring up the document and work on it.

How many poems did I write?

If you’re expecting me to say 30, because I wrote one every single day then leave now and save your self the disappointment. Some people, I guess, can write daily and stick to the commitment of a poem a day, but I am not one of those people. So in actual fact I wrote…13 poems. This doesn’t sound like a lot considering the desired total was 30, but it was the process of writing, and the different styles I tried along with the variety of subjects which made those 13 poems really worth the time I spent on them.

What did I learn about myself as a writer?

  1. I like prompts. I used to be scared of prompts, and everytime I’d write from them I’d get anxious about every single word I put down, and would declare after that whatever I’d written was the worst thing I’d ever produced. And mostly that would be true, my prompt writing would be rushed, with no thought about the words, just a scribbling of ideas that might one day become a poem. But this time I actually got some good lines down. I think the difference was taking my time and only using the prompts when I had a moment to sit down with it and write something, rather than forcing myself to extract a poem out of nowhere.
  2. I write about everyday things. The website I used had so many different kinds of prompts, but most of my poems centered around what I’d call ‘everyday subjects’. These included: riding a bike, looking at the moon, and my mum’s umbrella.
  3. I can write in form, when I want to. I hardly ever write poems to a strict form, as I usually start thinking about the form more than the words. Or the words have to change to fit the form, and then I lose the essence of what I was trying to write in the first place. But one of the prompts was to write a Villanelle. I’d heard of these, as there are a few poets I know who have written them. And I loved it! The form really worked for the poem I was writing, and I had fun writing it. Plus, I felt a bit proud of the poem because I’d stuck exactly to the form and ended up happy with it.
  4. If a prompt doesn’t speak to me instantly, I won’t write. This might sound like the opposite of what NaPoWriMo is all about, but this is just the way I work. If I’m frowning at the prompt and have zero ideas or inspiration from it, then I’ll just leave it. Once I’ve read the prompt, it’s in my head and I might think of at least a few lines as a jumping off point later down the line, and then I’ll write it. But some poems need time, and others come instantly, and I don’t try to force it.
  5. I’m OK if I don’t write. I didn’t write those 13 poems 13 days in a row. I did some of them on the same day in a ‘catching up’ kind of way, and others are a couple of poems under one prompt. Other prompts are left blank, and on some days I just didn’t write. Mostly because life was happening, but each day I would at least read the prompt so I had it in my head. But not writing didn’t leave me with an empty feeling or a crisis that I’m never going to write again. If I can’t write, or am not in the mood to write, then I’ll let myself do something else.

I have all the prompts for each day typed out in my document, so I can return to them anytime I like, so at some point I’m sure I will have 30 poems collected together. But as it stands, I have some poems that I like, and two of them I have already performed.

I will leave you with an abecedarian poem that I wrote for day 19:

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