NPM ’16 – What I learned

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SpendItAll-Dillard

The entire quote from which the above is taken:

“One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book, give it, give it all, give it now… Some more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.” – Annie Dillard

I once had the quote by Annie Dillard (above) pinned to my bulletin board. It was encouragement to be less hesitant to use my “good ideas”  (what if I never got another one…) and to share my writing. This last month I have put it into practice perhaps more than ever before. For not only did I write a new poem every day but  also published daily here on this blog.

I think I enjoyed April of 2016 poetically more than any National Poetry month till now. I’m sure that’s because I put more into it in several ways. Here are some things I learned about myself and the writing process.

1. The fact that I was determined to post a poem every day had me working harder and more purposefully than other years when I wrote daily but didn’t go public.

2. I got a lot out of following other poets’ projects. Here are some of the April 2016 poem series that I enjoyed a lot:

Mary Lee Hahn’s series inspired by old photos.

Donna Smith’s series inspired by vanity license plates.

– Irene Latham’s series “Art Speak” inspired by paintings (many that involved food, to go with her latest published project Fresh Delicious).

– Amy L. Vanderwater’s series “Wallow in Wonder” inspired by the daily questions at Wonderopolis.

Margaret Simon’s series inspired by photographic images.

– Doraine Bennett’s series “Feet in a Creek” inspired by specific poems of favorite poets.

Heidi Mordhorst’s series of poetry paired with music.

– And of course, being part of the 2016 Kidlitosphere Progressive Poem.

These series got me thinking that on another year I’d like to write to a theme.

3. Writing daily has helped me feel more relaxed about the process. It has showed me that if you sit with an idea for a while, something usually surfaces. The wonderful thing about poetry is that it can be about anything. When I give what James Scott Bell calls “the boys in the basement” the assignment to come up with an idea, they usually do. It helps, though, to be patient and respect the process.  Here’s how I described that process some years ago

Some Poems

Some poems appear like lightning
an epiphany moment
of illuminating clarity

Others are a groping hand-over-hand
out of the well of experience
into the light of meaning

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

4. Finally, what kept me going most was the companionship of my writing friend Laurel. She joined me in this challenge by publishing a new poem of her own almost every day on her blog Four Parts Hope. There’s nothing like a poet buddy to keep one on track. Thanks Laurel!

Thanks, as well, to all who came by and read these daily April postings!

I will now resume my usual pedestrian schedule of one or two posts per week.

Ready … Set … for NaNoWriMo

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A week from today the hordes of writers who signed up for this year’s NaNoWriMo challenge will be logging their first word counts on the way to 50,000. Three years ago I was one of them.

I had decided to sign up a few weeks before that. The decision was not taken lightly. The fiction project I wanted to tackle had been on my mind for years. I had spent months, seven years earlier, researching the setting of the story I wanted to tell and went back to it from time to time. But I always ended up dropping it because it seemed I would never know enough.

I had begun to realize, though, that perhaps I just needed to write the story and fill in the gaps later. NaNoWriMo with its built in hype, inspirational newsletters, and accountability might be just the thing to get me over the great hump of producing a first draft.

To help make sure this would happen I spent the weeks between making my decision and November 1, 2009 doing some groundwork. Here are some things I did pre-NaNoWriMo:

1. I found and printed Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method for writing a novel. Then I worked at fleshing out my plot and characters.

2. I re-reread the research I had done.

3. Since my story was Bible fiction it had events that needed to occur in a specific order. I made a document of the Bible script of events, formatting it with the print filling the left half of the page, leaving the right half blank for my notes. When I got ideas of how my character would handle these events, I made jottings on the right.

4. I broadcast my intentions on the forum of The Word Guild, a Canadian writer’s group to which I belong, asking if anyone else was planning on doing the NaNo thing. We soon had an accountability group which included Sara Davison (The Watcher), Marcia Laycock (One Smooth Stone and A Tumbled Stone) and Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts).

By November 1st I was chomping at the bit to get going!

Are you planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year? Have you ever done it? What preparations would you suggest?