This past Thursday I began the annual October Poetry Writing Month Challenge (OctPoWriMo). CJ got me started on it last year and I couldn’t wait for it to begin this year. And boy, did it ever start. I’ve already had two challenges that gave me pause. One was to write cinematically and the other was to write a shape poem on the subject of showing up. And BOOM, baby! I knew what to use as my subject for today’s post here.
Writing is hard. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different. To sit down in a chair and write for a set period of time is not natural, and the inclination is to procrastinate. To find anything else other than what you should be doing, i.e. writing. So, the hardest part of writing is showing up.
What I mean is to be focused on what you are doing. It’s relatively easy to become distracted. Let’s see, there’s Facebook, or Twitter, or, oh yeah, what was that thing on Amazon you were looking at? Or maybe there’s some housework that needs to be done, or you really should take that walk you’re supposed to be taking. Guess what…you aren’t showing up. In fact, there’s nothing being written because other things have taken your time and attention.
Now, I’m not talking about those things that really need taking care of, e.g. kids needing to be fed, dogs needing to be walked, the tire changed on the car. Obviously, family (and laundry) is important. But, I’m fairly certain that you can do without all the drama on Facebook for at least thirty minutes.
This is why I like doing writing challenges. They force me to show up, and that, in turn, sharpens my skills and strengthens my weaknesses. Especially when I’m doing an online blog challenge. I get immediate feedback from different readers and their viewpoints are invaluable. In minutes I can tell if I need to change POV or if I’ve missed something. Is the poem I wrote subpar or should I consider adding it to a future collection folder? What needs tweaking and what did I do right?
The two prompts that I was especially challenged by nearly had me stumped. Writing cinematically was a prompt where we had to view our favorite movie, scene, or video, mute it, and view it without sound. We then had to write a poem in such a way as to express the way the scene came across to us. Well, I don’t have a particularly favorite movie or video so I chose a scene from Sir Ian McKellen’s 2008 performance of King Lear. The scene itself had moved me to torrential sobbing. Sir Ian is like a grandfather figure to me and so the end scene is heart-wrenching. I didn’t much like the poem I wrote (read here), but I was surprised by how many people were moved by my words. I showed up and put a lot of thought and focus into it, even using two phrases from the play to emphasize Lear’s frame of mind. (By the by, this is an excellent exercise to utilize sensory perception-take away all sound and write only what you see.)
The other prompt was difficult only because I really do not like writing shape poetry. That’s where you write a poem whose form is a visual shape on the page. Think Shel Silverstein:
The day I was supposed to write for this prompt ended up being incredibly busy, but I still pushed it off for as long as I could. I REALLY don’t like writing shape poetry (probably because my illustrative skills suck-Joe, feel like giving me some lessons?). But still, I showed up and completed the challenge:
Yes, I wanted to make you cross-eyed. No, not really. The spiral itself is central to the idea/theme of the poem. Here is the actual poem:
By Jesi Scott
Those eternal days of not being enough
not having it all together
small cry-yourself-to-sleep days
when even your heart doesn’t show up but hides
in the endless pit of hell on earth-
What brimstone scorches worse than this black hole named despair?
Sucked dry and spit back out into chaos where
the best you can do is show up but
your best isn’t good enough
and so you spiral down and down and down…but still, you show up.
The poem itself can stand alone but is definitely more impactful when utilizing the shape (spiral). It gives the sense I wanted to convey of falling in and spinning out of control.
I wouldn’t have come up with either of these poems if I hadn’t shown up. You have to make the time to write. You have to give it your complete attention.
Showing up is half the battle.
Have a great week!