It’s the eve of National Poetry Month, and we’re gearing up for an intense but fulfilling challenge: 30/30, responding to a writing prompt each day in April. We’ll be posting prompts here, or you might find a list you love elsewhere in a writing book or on the Internet.
Have you done a 30/30 before? They’re wonderful, but can seem a bit daunting when you’re peering over the edge, wondering if that bridge is as close as it looks. Never fear! We have a few secrets to help us all make that marvelous journey across the ravine that is Not Making Enough Time for Your Writing.
Secret #1: This is a dedicated No Judging Zone.
That means no judging anything that comes out of your pen in response to a prompt. By you, by us, by anyone. The name of the game is not 30 [Poems] in 30 Days. It’s 30 Prompts in 30 Days. So relax: perfection isn’t the goal. Showing up is absolutely enough to make this achievement real.
Which brings me to the next thing we don’t judge: if you miss on day 3, or day 8, or day 23, or even day 1, guess what? No judging. Just show up the next day. And if you miss that day? Still okay. Yes, it’s a 30/30. Good news: writing 25 days out of 30 is still an amazing accomplishment. So is writing 10 days out of 30. Stop giving yourself a hard time. Give yourself the benefit of the doubt, instead, and another chance tomorrow.
Secret #2: Better five minutes now than an hour “later.”
Time. We’re surrounded by it and yet it’s a constant paucity. One of the reasons I don’t write as much as I’d like is that it’s so rarely a good time to write. I’ll do it after this chore, or that meeting, or the other obligation, I promise myself. And then the day is over and I’m barely able to summon the energy to browse Netflix, let alone do anything creative. If you don’t have this problem, bless you, I am overjoyed for you. If you’re like me, let’s agree that the mythical ‘good time to write’ is the unicorn we’re going to cherish as a well-loved myth, even as we put our hands to the reins of the next five minutes. Yes, this five minutes, right now. Even if you think you’re in an environment where you can’t concentrate, just try and see what happens. Even if you just end up jotting down a note or two towards a poem that’s been hovering around the edges of your mind, you’ve succeeded in setting something down that you can return to later. It’s so often easier to edit than to create; your future self will be singing your praises when she picks those notes back up again.
And who knows? Maybe with that spark of momentum from this imperfect five minutes will give you the energy you need to delve into that quiet hour later.
Let’s agree that the mythical ‘good time to write’
is the unicorn we’re going to cherish
as a well-loved myth, even as we put our hands
to the reins of the next five minutes.
Secret #3: We love you just the way you are.
See also: Secret #1. Can we all agree that perfection must be extremely boring? If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be to revel in the mess of creation. Get paint on your clothes. Write on your face accidentally as you try to tug the right word out of your mind. Find yourself with 20 semi-relevant browser tabs open after writing a blog post. Laugh at your fabulous flaws and keep on going. Have you now used the same 50-cent word in four prompts responses in a row? No worries, maybe that’s the theme of your next chapbook. No worries, you can edit it out if you need to in later drafts. No worries, maybe that’s the word you should use as your next prompt for tomorrow.
To that end, I want to say this: structure can be a good and beautiful thing. It can also stifle. If you usually sit down to visit our page and respond to the prompt at 3 o’clock, but at 8:30 a.m. you see something out the window that sparks a line, grab a pen and write it down. You’re allowed to use prompts from different sources. You’re allowed to write down lines that popped randomly into your head apropos of nothing. You’re allowed to use anything you want as a prompt, and any words you put together seeking beauty or meaning on a page count towards your 30/30.
So, what are your favorite tips and tricks for making time to write? Where do you like to find prompts? We’d love to hear your ideas; please feel free to share in the comments. And please do stop by each day in April, if you need prompts for your 30/30. We look forward to writing with you!