It’s (inter)National Novel Writing Month (iNaNoWriMo), though we all know I’m not working on a novel. But neither am I willing to pass up a chance to ride the wonderful wave of creative energy rolling across the globe and through my own amazing community. (Shout-out to all the beautiful Bluegrass writers!) So I’ve given myself four very different writing activities to work on this month and have been able to make time for at least one of them each day.
Today’s activity is blogging, inspired by this article on poetry by A.E. Stallings. I may have to print it and carry it with me for those awkward moments when I’m called upon to talk about what I do. (For the record, I often cop out by talking about editing, which is only slightly less deadly to conversation than poetry.) Stallings hits all the salient points, and I love him for it.
- Poetry is not useful, yet it is everywhere.
- It transcends us and will outlast us all in some recorded form, though who will care?
- Poetry is commercially non-viable and materially irrelevant, which makes it rather suspect.
Poetry arises from paradox, from the multiple meanings a word or image can hold. It’s a linguistic version of certain mathematical equations which seem to describe separate realities happening all at once.
Anyone who doubts the subversive, contradictory, and disreputable power of poetry needs only consider this year’s Nobel prize award for literature. It doesn’t explain much, but it makes a fantastic illustration. (Kinda like poetry.)
A.E. Stallings, “Why Bother with Poetry?” Times Literary Supplement Online, 7 Nov 2016,
This poem formed during the wee hours this morning, in a wakeful moment between sleep cycles. The words arranged themselves as I spoke them in my mind, and I desperately hoped, as I slipped back under, that I would remember them. I’m not certain I did, but this is a fair approximation.
in sleep, our fingers still curl
as if encircling a branch
and our hands clench, gripping
as though our lives
depend on it, which they did once
upon a distant ancestor
Today is the first day of NaNoWriMo 2010 — National Novel Writing Month, although it is quite the international movement at this point. The idea is to complete the draft of a novel by the end of November: 50,000 words in 30 days. It’s fun, it’s insane…and it works. I’ve wanted to take part ever since I found out about it, but certain inconvenient facts stand in the way:
Fact 1: I work in short media/genres.
I’m a short-work writer: poetry, flash fiction, blurbs, reviews, letters. I don’t think I even have anything novel-length in me. That’s why blogging appeals to me and actually sort of works for me: it’s perfectly structured for shorter pieces. But even then I have difficulty showing up at times.
Fact 2: I work as an editor/proofreader.
That uses the same parts of my brain as writing. Today, for example, I easily wrote the daily NaNoWriMo target number of words (about 1600, as I recall) in comments, corrections, suggestions, and correspondence with clients. The written language portion of my brain is pretty tired right now. I love what I do, and my clients seem to love it, too; I don’t resent or regret that my work on other people’s writing makes it very difficult to work on my own writing. But it is a factor that affects my identity as a writer and my ability to pursue writing as an activity (let alone as a career).
So there they are, the facts that face me on this first day of one of the coolest celebrations of writing ever devised. I have to remember that I am a part of it; my part just comes after the drafting stage, and sometimes not until right before publication. And for right now, at this time and place in my life, that will have to suffice.
I somehow think it will.