Progress report from halfway through the battle!
I first met Phil O’Connor, Sweden-based sports-journalist and novelist on stage at Literary Deathmatch Dublin, Episode 5. After a brief to and fro in the smoking area afterwards, we became friends, mutually bonded by the buzz we get from writing, and the pursuit of a place higher up on the ladder of the side of the ivory tower that is the literary world.
So in an e-mail, Phil says to me, let’s write one hundred poems in one hundred days. You go, then I’ll go, then you go. So that makes one every second day. Easy. A million things flash through my head at this moment: the main thought being are you serious, you can barely get up the strength to write one poem a week, let alone one every second day and the surrounding notions were coloured somewhat similarly. Where is the time supposed to come from? Worse, where are the ideas supposed to come from? This is ridiculous and impossible and no, I am not doing it.
However, in that moment, instead of going with my head, I went with my gut. While my head was shouting at me to not dare have illusions of producing that quantity of work, my instinct told me it was time to step outside my comfort zone. Push the creative process, practise it and journey with it: at best, hone it. Like a muscle, creativity weakens when it’s not used.
So I said yes. Yep, go ninety, let’s do this.
That was 46 poems ago.
Nearly halfway through.
22 of those poems are mine (I’m down one actually due to a day lost in the midst of teaching and being a grownup) and have been produced since the first of January. They’ve ranged in topic from lost glasses to train stations to old jobs and childhood moments to dialogues I’ve had with some of the teenagers I work with to mishmashed excerpts from dating websites. There’s one about a masseuse. More than one about love. Most of them are set at night. I’m learning, you see, tracking my instincts, figuring out what I’m most inclined to write about. Trying to break habits: trying to curb writing dates into everything – oh back in 1994, or, when I was eighteen, or that summer when this that or the other happened. Trying not to set everything at night. Tying to shut up with stories about public transport. Trying not to write about being drunk and silly and in love and all that mid twenties nonsense. Trying and failing: one major thing this project has taught me is to not deny instinct. I’m going to have to write it all out of me until nothing comes anymore.
There are days like that, too. Where I know I’ve a poem due by midnight and I stare into Microsoft Word, admonishing myself for my lack of perception and discipline. Then a poem appears or is strealed out of my consciousness by half two after staring into You Tube for a few too many hours and procrastinating the inevitable: a mediocre piece of work. That’s what’s great about this project. It shows you that you can’t expect alchemy every other day of the week. It forces you to stare into weaker pieces, and accept them as part of the journey. Maybe later the weaker pieces will grow and turn into better pieces. Maybe they’ll curdle in their quiet corner of the internet and eventually disappear. Doesn’t matter, at least they happened. And because they happened, they made way for better pieces to follow.
I am learning so much. I urge you to attempt this process yourself, and do initiate a buddy-system. I know that if I’m a day late I’ll find a little red note in my Facebook asking me, ‘Are you forgetting something?’ and that’s the boost I need. Knowing that someone is there to read and understand your work, as well as having the privilege of reading and knowing somebody else through their work, is hugely enriching. We are learning a lot about each other, as well as ourselves and poetry as a form of expression. A project of this nature is fertile ground to grow a friendship from.
Given, this is still only halfway through the journey. I’ll talk to you from the other side when it’s done, maybe then I’ll have more cohesive thoughts on the process. And even if I don’t, at least I’ll have fifty new poems in my backpack, to take with me and remind me of the first 100 days of 2012.
Keep updated on our journey at http://100poems.wordpress.com