With two days left before NaPoWriMo begins, I’ve been thinking about what goes into writing a prompted poem daily for a month. One key is to use routines wherever you can. You know what you have to do and you get used to going through the steps. Breaking down my strategy, I found that a routine surfaced, and I want to share it.
Eight Steps to a Poem a Day
- Read the prompt as early as possible. Give it time to marinate. Let your subconscious have first crack at it, while you go through your day.
- Consciously dismiss all concerns and distractions at writing time. You may even try saying aloud, “Time to write a poem.” Focus on the prompt and how you interpret it.
- When a prompt takes you to a particular place, that’s where you start writing. If that doesn’t happen, write whatever thoughts come to mind. In this stage of associative writing (I call it that) you’re stirring your personal knowledge from the bottom up, and things can surface that may have been dormant for many years. It happens and it is quite useful.
- Eventually something will strike you. That’s the theme you wan to give your attention to and develop.
- Find the sense of what you’re hearing in the words. Write words that are fully expressive of what you’re thinking, in colors, smells, emotions. Write to reflect the rhythm you feel, breaking lines however you like. Just get the words down to flesh out your message.
- Shape your poem. You’ll read your poems several times before it’s over. First reading: Listen to the flow and revise your line breaks and punctuation to convey the rhythm and breaths you use.
- Read aloud with affect. Does it sound like you want. Read with different rhythms that play from your shape. Listen for what readers may hear. Make changes as you see fit.
- Take a break from the poem. If you’re like me you may not have a lot of time for this. But it helps. When you can, move off your poem, to something else. Return later to repeat the process of reading and editing until your comfortable, (or run out of time), and post.
A Word about Speeding
These steps are from my experiences with daily poem writing on my own, and with prompts in November 2009. The writing goes fast, and so does the editing. In fact you can do it in a day or in an hour as time permits.
My point is that your goal isn’t to perfect your poem. That comes later. What you’re doing is making it work so that 1. your message is understood, and 2. you’re willing to let it go live. Easy, right?
Writing without prompts
Although this is written toward prompted poems, there’s really very little difference between prompted and unprompted poem writing. Really, the only difference is that someone other than you provides the prompts.
Think about it: Unprompted poems are really poems that you prompt for yourself. Rummaging through your thoughts, you pick up things that interest you and get working on it. So, skipping number 1, you can move through the same steps as above—I do.
Be sure to visit the links on the NPM 2010 page for links to participate in National Poetry Month. Links for this event are in the sidebar for easy access.
Let me know your thoughts. What did I miss? What routines do you have to write your poems?