celestialgldfsh (celestialgldfsh) wrote,

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Poem a Day: Tips for the Journey

I've participated in the Poem a Day Challenge for several years now, often writing in both April and November. The prospect of a daily poem is rather daunting, but if you're up to the challenge, here are some things I've learned along the way.

1) NaNoWriMo and PAD are doable at the same time.
Yes, you can do this. I survived that double whammy a few years ago. "Didn't it drive you crazy?" some people asked. After I paused for maniacal laughter, I had to say, "No." That actually came as a surprise to me. Poetry seems to work a different part of my brain. I could be exhausted from shoving out my daily allotment for NaNo, but working on the daily poem felt... different. Like taking a drink of water instead of lemonade. It's not the same kind of writing.

2) Don't take the prompt literally.
No one is judging you on adherence to the prompt. It's a seed. Take whatever grows from it. If the prompt is "light" and you write about darkness, go for it. You can also use the prompt as the starting point and then remove it in revisions. No one is going to reach across the internet and slap your hand. If they do, scream like a little girl and GET OUT OF THERE.

3) Start the day with the prompt.
During PAD, I look at the prompt first thing in the morning as I check my email and do other basic stuff. I open a document in Word, type the date and the prompt, and then let that document sit there. Use this time to think. Stare at that blank document. Ponder. Let hours pass. Go wash dishes. Wax the cat. You'll find the muse in those moments of idleness. Usually by early afternoon, a poem will trickle into my mind.

4) Give yourself permission to suck.
This is true of NaNoWriMo. It's true of Poem a Day. Some days are just rotten. The prompt just doesn't bring anything to mind. That's okay. Write a verse about how much the prompt sucks. A few years ago, the prompt was to write a sestina. I tried, I really did. After I swept up the jagged shards of my brain, I wrote a poem about how much I hated sestinas. I counted that as my poem for the day, and moved along.

5) Use a theme to inspire you.
For me, the daily prompts aren't enough. I like to keep most of my poems along a certain theme--in my case, fantasy or science fiction. I know these poetic markets. (I've created some literary poems I really love that I just can't sell, nor do I know where to send them.) Choose a certain genre for the month, or an emotional theme, or a setting. Having a narrower focus can really help you with each daily prompt.

6) You don't need to create epics.
Crammed for time? Write short poems. You don't need to do haiku or anything fancy like that. A lot of markets will only take poems under 100 lines or a few pages. There are some markets specifically for poems under 10 lines. Heck, this poem by Ogden Nash has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. Most of my poems tend to be 10-30 lines.

7) Have fun with it.
Yes, I'm trying to create poems I can market, but I also know that probably only half of them will be submittable. I like those odds. You don't have to submit a single poem--not to a market, not to Robert Lee Brewer's chapbook contest, not to a single soul. Just write.

No matter what you do, let that be your mantra: just write.
Tags: pad, poetry

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