April is National Poetry Month, and many poets take on the challenge of writing a poem every day. It’s similar to NaNoWriMo (November), but fewer words. We’re a third of the way through, but the truth is, you don’t need to limit your writing challenges to a single month. Here are some reasons to do a 30-day poetry writing challenge.
- You’re unlikely to generate 30 really good poems right off the bat—but you’re going to generate more good poems than if you don’t take on the challenge. For some of us, we get 30 drafts that can later be turned into decent poems. Others end up sifting through and throwing out the drafts that don’t offer enough possibility. Either way, you’ve got new material to work with.
- Writing a poem every day is like a workout for your poetic muscles. You’ll notice the world differently, looking for those lines or images that trigger a poem. You’ll listen to language more intently, hearing the music and the nuances of conversation. Ultimately, the poems will come more naturally. It’s the reason athletes and musicians do drills and scales; the practice makes you better.
- You’ll learn not to wait for inspiration. This is one of the best lessons a writer can learn. Of course inspiration can be part of the process for any artist, but haven’t you ever been inspired to write a poem just when you don’t have time to do so? Or had time, but couldn’t think of anything to say? Whether you write at the same time every day or won’t let yourself go to bed before writing your poem for the day, you’re working to break your dependence on the fickle muse.
- It’s an antidote to writer’s block. Thinking of each day as an assignment takes the pressure off having to write the “best” poem. You wrote a poem; that’s all that was required. If it wasn’t “good,” then no worries. You wrote something. William Stafford famously said that the trick to beating writer’s block is to lower your standards. Once you have something down on the page, you have something to work with; revision then becomes your friend.
- Writing a poem a day for 30 days is fun. It’s fun in part because other people are doing it, and there are numerous informal and more formal groups you can join and websites you can follow. You’ve also got some accountability, whether from your friends who are doing it or from yourself. Many of us do better at a voluntary task when others are expecting it and/or cheering us on.
- You may surprise yourself with what comes out. Robert Frost said, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” Maybe you’re tired of your “usual” style or topics. Maybe you’re feel generally bored with your own poems, or you’ve finished a project and are lost in terms of going forward. A change in your usual process can jumpstart a new project. The last time I did NaPoWriMo, I ended up with a chapbook that won an award and got published.
So whether you start now and go for 10 days into May, or choose another 30 day period, get to writing those poems!