What Thirty Poems Taught Me

This past April I participated in National Poetry Writing Month where I had to write a new poem everyday for thirty days.

It was an ambitious goal and I was worried if I actually had thirty poems in me. Would I even have time to write everyday? Would my tendencies of being a perfectionist and procrastinator get in the way of the work?

Well, I discovered in the first few days I could consistently write a poem/day if I  ‘lowered my standards‘.

I didn’t think in terms of making a masterpiece everyday, rather the goal was simply to write a poem, good or bad, it didn’t matter. Because of this, ‘success’ was a lot more achievable, all I had to do was consistently show up at my desk.

It also helped that I was posting my daily poems publicly on Facebook & Twitter. The few friends that followed along helped me stay accountable and consistent.  And I think it offered them a window into another side of my creativity.

So, besides accumulating thirty little pieces, I was reminded of some basic writing habits I had somehow been neglecting:

  1. The power of 30 days: I was surprised by how quickly a difficult habit can become commonplace in your routine and the unpredictable side-effects that new addition can have on the rest of your life. This can be a habit that is central to your career goals, like in the case of Jerry Seinfeld and how he used a simple wall calendar to become a better comedian, or it can be an opportunity to try something new and strange as encouraged by Googler Matt Cutts.
  2. Being playfully creative: it was great to have a writing outlet that I didn’t have to take as seriously as my other work.
  3. Daily creative work/exercise: most of my day is routine, very little of it is actually creative and/or challenging. Very little of my days or even weeks are spent on some project that involves my senses and memories. That kind of work is usually reserved for the hours before a deadline or when I’m in the rare creative mood. It was great to do something everyday that exercised my writing muscles. It reminded me that I need to be screenwriting every single day if I’m serious about being a filmmaker.
  4. The power of language: using poetic phrasings to evoke imagery and emotions improved all forms of my communication. I could feel its impact in all my exchanges, from simple email messages to verbal conversations with strangers. I was somehow braver with my ideas and feelings and because of this my words felt a lot more authentic and meaningful.
  5. Save certain creative ideas for more appropriate mediums: I am a visual screenwriter and think because of this I sometimes lean towards using poetic or novelistic language for script exposition. I’ve seen in the past few months that this gets in the way of a new reader or potential producer trying to understand and imagine the film for themselves. Saving that kind of language for my poems made it a lot easier to be less extravagant in my screenplay exposition.

This was such a great experience that I’ve continued past the thirty poem mark and I’m currently headed towards 50 poems in 50 days. Who knows, I might go all the way to 100?! [UPDATE: I actually made it all the way to 100 poems, check out what that journey taught me]

I’ve found that past thirty days I’ve exhausted my brain’s ‘surface’, the imagery and phrases I had sitting in my immediate consciousness. Now, I’m having to really dig into my memories and observations to produce new work.

My daily strolls through Amsterdam have taken on a new purpose, they are now daily scavenger hunts to find new poems.