Sunday, May 06, 2018

While I Was a Terrible Blogger During #NaPoWriMo, I Earned My Poem-A-Day Merit Badge... (Plus: Why Quantity Wins Over Quality in First Drafts...)

So when in April while I was also naming myself "the worst blogger ever" I was also giving myself a completion badge for writing a poem-a-day in April for National Poetry Month.

Yes, I wrote a poem a day.

Yes, some where terrible.

But wait, some were actually pretty good.

One thing I realized is be less concerned with quality of the first draft and more interested in completion of the first draft. Quality can come later during the revision process, but getting words onto the paper is important.

This story below is from Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".
Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

There's a lot to learn here about daily writing, writing a ton of poems that never go anywhere, or just finding 10 minutes in the day to write. You can determine the moral of the story for yourself and your takeaway, but for me it's the moment I put "importance" onto a poem, I lose the play, the joy, and the spontaneity that is, for me, the spark of art.

My best writing has been done when I wake up with a clear mind and maybe 40 minutes just to dream on paper. 

My best writing rarely happens when I am saying to myself, "Okay, you need to make this one excellent, you need to write your best poem ever."

I have a friend I write with back and forth and on May 1st he sent me an email saying, "I haven't lost the energy, I want to keep writing a poem-a-day..." And I agree.

So I will continue on trying to write a poem a day, but being happy if I get a poem a week or a poem every-other-day. 

Because I love the journey and while I love a draft that leads to a completed work, I appreciate the poems that don't. They are like sketches in an artist's journal, practice swings on a baseball field knowing one day, we'll hit it out of the park.

~ Kells


1 comment:

  1. I resonate to every word of this. I've been a daily writer for decades. On a sabbatical year, I made it a project to draft a complete (not good, just complete) poem every day. After the sabbatical ended, I just kept going. I'm now in year 12 of that. One of many side-benefits of this habit, I've found, is that I'm much happier than I used to be before going daily. My little essay on the subject:

    --David Graham


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