My artistic process - the 30 Day Poetry Challenge


I’ve been in a bit of a “waiting for something to happen” phase lately, mainly because of my novel. I just finished another round of revisions, and I am waiting for responses from literary agents--some of which are actually reading my full manuscript. I wanted to wait until I got feedback from them/the second round of beta readers before I started on more revisions so I'm not actively working on a larger writing project at the moment. 

I’ve also learned that I think I really need to be involved in two projects at once: one writing project, and one artistic project that is collaborative in some way, like a band or a play. This is really how it’s always been, but I’ve realized how anti-social I get when I am just writing, and I don’t think that’s healthy. I need the inspiration from being around other artists. I need inspiration from just being around other people in general. Everyone is beautiful and everyone inspires me in some way.

I think this is one of the big reasons I did Godspell. I was really burnt out on the Atlanta music scene so I didn’t want to be in a band, and then my church just happened to be doing this musical that I loved. I had an amazing experience, and it has inspired me to do more theatre. I’ve actually even been going on auditions again. (Well, just one so far, but we’ll see how it goes.) Theatre is the perfect thing to do while I am in limbo with my novel. It gives me the opportunity to be artistic, creative, and collaborative, but it doesn’t take quite as much out of me as writing all of my “rage against the ex-boyfriend songs.” (And anyway, I’m really in a pretty positive place which means I haven’t even been writing many songs lately -- I guess I only write songs when I’m upset about something.)

Luckily, while I'm sort of in limbo with other artistic projects, the 30 Day Poetry Challenge on Facebook has started back up. It was started by a few of my fellow grad students from the University of New Orleans (all poetry majors), and this is the third year. To celebrate National Poetry Month (which is of course April), the idea is to write a poem every day based on prompts posted on the Facebook page. Poets are encouraged to post their poems on their own Facebook pages or the 30 Day Poetry Challenge page, but it’s not required. I have participated in this the past two years, but I never got through all 30 days. (A poem I wrote is actually even appearing in an Anthology of the first two years of poems.) So far, we’re on day 9, and I have written a poem every single day. I’m hoping I actually get to Day 30 this year. (And I'll be sure to post the favorite poems I've written in the challenge this year here on the website when the month is over so stay tuned for that.)

Not every poem every day is going to be golden, but that’s not really the point. I love exercises and challenges like this. It reminds me a little of the writing marathons I used to do. In those, you get prompts and you HAVE to write for 5, 10, 20, or even 30 minute intervals. The point is just to write. You might not get anything usable out of the whole day, but you will exercise your writing muscles. And sometimes you have to write 18 pages to get to one really great sentence. But it’s all worth it, because in the end it’s not really even about the sentence. It’s about the process. And that’s how I feel about the 30 Day Poetry Challenge. It’s a challenge in the truest sense of the word. It is forcing me to step outside of my normal writing habits by making me do things I wouldn’t normally do. 

The most important part of writing (or any art form really) is just to do it. If you want to be a writer, write every day, even if it’s just two pages in your journal about how you stubbed your toe. Who knows? The emotion from that might lead to a poem or a short story. You never know where you will end up if you don’t start somewhere. Put the pen to the paper. Type on your keyboard. Write anything. Don’t care if it’s good or if people will enjoy it. Write for yourself. You can always edit and revise later if you want to make something more structured. Just get it down on the page. That is the best writing advice I’ve ever been given, and I think that is what sets those who want to write apart from those people who have writing inside of their blood.

Click here to purchase Ready For Consumption: An Anthology of Poems from the 30 Day Poetry Challenge

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