Poems & Practice

Last month, I wrote a poem every day. (Scroll down if you want to read more about my process for creating these poems!)

I’ve realized since graduating that without the motivation of assignment deadlines and a tight class schedule, it’s a lot more challenging to keep creating. Something I heard about a lot in school was the importance of setting up a daily practice. After doing something every day in June for a collaborative project (see it here), I realized that a daily practice was quite manageable and really enjoyable. I decided to try a daily practice again for the month of September. This time, I made a goal to write a short poem every day, resulting in 30 poems by the end of the month.

I’ve found that daily practices are helpful because they keep me creating something every day, without the pressure of needing to make something amazing each time. A daily practice leaves room for experimentation and even failure. Because I’m making something small every day, I’m not expecting that everything I make will be a polished final product. But more often than I expect, I find that I’ve actually made something I really like.

The consistency of setting a simple goal for each day also keeps me making, whether or not I feel like it. As with any daily routine, there are some days when the creative juices are flowing and ideas abound, and other days when I have no inspiration or motivation to make anything. Having a daily practice is helpful for the “dry” days, because it forces me to at least try something and not keep putting off creating until I have a moment of inspiration or perfect plan (which may never happen). In fact, creating even when I don’t have any ideas may actually result in new ideas and inspiration. Keeping a daily practice is like training for a race: jogging a little bit every day, keeping up a momentum (even if slow) so that when a good idea does come, I have something to work off of instead of trying to start from ground zero. It’s a rhythm of making that I engage in every day that keeps my mind fresh for when a good idea does occur.

I’ve discovered with other projects that it’s really helpful to have a set of rules to follow when creating. And I think that’s especially true when doing a daily practice. Just telling myself “I need to make something today” isn’t very helpful, because I just get frustrated when I can’t think of a good idea. So this month, I made a set of rules to follow for writing my daily poems. (I’ve actually used this same system before, to create the poems in in time will return)

I collected a list of 12 sources, books which I’ve read this summer and the music which has been on repeat:

  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

  • In the Shelter by Pádraig Ó Tuama

  • The Messiah Comes to Middle Earth by Philip Ryken

  • The Most Beautiful Thing I’ve Seen by Lisa Gungor

  • The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien

  • Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot

  • The Gospel of Mark

  • The Gospel of Luke

  • The Psalms

  • Gungor’s One Wild Life trilogy

  • Sleeping at Last’s Atlas: Year Two project

  • My journal

I then followed these steps:

  • Pick a source at random.

  • Use Google’s random number generator to generate a random number within the number of pages in the book (or, for the music, the number of songs in the record).

  • Go to that page number in the book (or that song, for the music).

  • Generate another random number between 1-100.

  • Count words on that page/song up to the second randomly generated number.

  • Look at the word landed on. If it’s boring (prepositions, a/an/the/and, etc.), look at the two words on either side of it. If one of those is a good word, choose it (repeat the process if needed until there’s an interesting word).

  • Repeat the process with 3 other sources.

  • Use the 4 words randomly generated from the 4 sources and write a poem (aim for haiku length, but it can be longer).

I used this system to write one poem every day for the month of September. Of course, not all 30 of them were perfect poems (quite a few were pretty cheesy or didn’t make much sense), but I was happy that I was able to consistently make something every day, and that’s a reward in itself. The ones in this post are my favorites. Since this process went so well last month, I want to try it again this month, this time with taking photos instead of writing poems. I’ll post the results in a few weeks!