a different approach to writing through national poetry month
This newsletter started a year ago with a poem-a-day challenge for April to celebrate National Poetry Month. In the past, I’ve loved that wild, ambitious challenge—writing a poem a day for an entire month is nearly impossible, but I’ve found it energizing to try. This year I’m finding that kind of breathless chasing after an almost-impossible goal is, as they say, not the vibe.
Here’s what I’d like to try instead: each day, first thing in the morning, I’ll send a newsletter with a suggestion for how you might do a little snippet of daily writing. Then, every couple of days, the newsletter will include suggestions for how you can shape those snippets into a poem. At the end of the month, you’ll have lots of writing and a handful of drafts of poems. But even more than that, I hope you’ll have a renewed connection to the part of your brain and spirit that makes art. My approach this year is much more about regular practice than it is about production. As I’ve written before, the writing life is not a sprint. It’s not even a marathon. It’s a daily walk. I want my writing life to be about attention and attunement and deep connection, not frantic productivity.
I hope you’ll join me for some daily writing, revision, and play this month. (If you’re not a poet, or not a poet right now, I’d still love for you to join us!) And if you have friends or a writing group who you think would enjoy this approach to celebrating national poetry month through writing, I’d love it if you would share the newsletter.
If you’d like to join us, here’s how to get ready:
plan a time to write. This year’s prompts are designed to take 10 minutes or so day. The goal is to cultivate a daily, doable practice. So you might think now about how to carve a little chunk out of your day for some daily writing and thinking. (Leaving for work a little early and writing in the parking lot has been working surprisingly well for me this semester!)
prep your writing materials. I’ve started carrying a small notebook in my gym bag because I like to walk to spin and barre classes without my phone. That walk often clears a little brain space, and having a notebook in my bag is essential for capturing whatever gets shaken loose. To get started this month, you might think about places where you want to make sure you have writing materials—a little notebook in the kitchen? a notepad in your car? a voice recorder on your phone? (And if it helps you feel excited about a new project, you could buy a new notebook and/or some pens. I like notebooks that are big and unfancy.)
gather your scraps. I’ll be reading through old notebooks and highlighting interesting phrases or images and tabbing pages with post-its. I’m also going through my digital files to find the poems I’ve started and abandoned and see what I can mine from those.
gather your inspiration. I’ll give you lots of suggestions of things to look for/listen to/read this month, but you might also take a few minutes to collect things that can help you write. If you have a stack of poetry books you’ve been meaning to read or re-read, put them all in one place near your writing space. If there’s art that speaks to you, collect it in a digital folder somewhere. If there’s music that can help you get into a good writing headspace, make a playlist. And so on. Whatever helps you feel excited to write, gather a little bit of that now. (And maybe grab some chocolate or gummy candy or chips! Writers can’t live just inside their brains.)
plan a way to share. When you’re working on a daily practice, it helps to give yourself ways to get credit for your work. You’re welcome to share in the comments, email me, or post to social media. (And I’d love it if you would tag me or this newsletter if you’re sharing.)
The community that’s grown out of this newsletter has been one of the loveliest things for me this past year. I’m looking forward to writing with you all again this month.
What are you hoping for this month? What’s sustained your writing practice? I’d love to hear from you. You can always reply to this email, comment below, or find me on twitter (@nancy_reddy) and instagram (@nancy.o.reddy).