As a working writer, someone making a living off my writing and related activities, I tend to be efficient and productive. And I love participating in writing and reading challenges that stretch my comfort zone and teach me new things. Usually.
This past April (National Poetry Month), though, I ran into some problems. Every year, I choose some kind of poem-a-day to do in April, and I share it on my blog for educators. This year, my life was bonkers. I had one daughter living with us but preparing to move out of state with her boyfriend. We were helping with all sorts of stuff–helping to research insurance, toting cars full of boxes around, throwing a going-away party, etc. We were prepping for an overseas visit to see our other daughter. And we were getting our townhome ready to go on the market. Plus the usual everyday stuff and full work schedule of writing and school visits and such. I thought briefly that I might skip doing a public challenge for Poetry Month. But that thought made me feel like I had a bowling ball in my stomach. So I came up with something relatively simple: one haiku per day. I wasn’t even going to do fancy graphics–just write it with a Sharpie on a Post-It note and share it online. Easy peasy.
And on Day 1, I felt optimistic.
But then, my optimism…waned.
I missed a few days. And…
I wrote a few that I never even remembered to share online. And…
The ones I did write felt mostly flat, uninspired, and, frankly, crappy.
It was not my most creative or celebratory Poetry Month effort, that’s for sure. But, even though it felt like a failure–and boy, did I breathe an enormous sigh of relief on May 1–it still was worthwhile. Why?
- Looking for small details or moments to write about forced me to pay close attention to the world around me. When we were in Cyprus visiting our daughter, I noticed small moments that I might have otherwise missed (even though most of those moments never made it into haiku).
- Reading back over the set of haiku gives me a sort of haiku diary of my month–of a very chaotic time full of joy and bits of heartbreak, too:
- Maybe some of them will seem more inspired or beautiful or poetic after some time goes by?
- A Twitter follower shared one with her principal or someone in administration, and my haiku ended up being read aloud at a school board meeting.
- It let me share moments I might not otherwise have shared, like a minor car accident I was in.
Basically, it was moments of my journey through the world, shared with a handful of people.
Did I meet my goal? Nope. Was it still worth it to try? Yes!
So if you participate in NaNoWriMo, StoryStorm, NaPiBoWriWee, ReFoReMo, or any of the many other challenges–or even if it’s just a challenge you publicly (gulp) set for yourself–remember that life is not an all-or-nothing game. We take on challenges to push ourselves…and sometimes we don’t complete them. But we can still celebrate whatever we do accomplish–and we can learn from that.