NaPoWriMo kicks off on April 1 and writers around the world will attempt to write a poem a day for 30 days. I’ve taken part in NaPoWriMo and other 30-day challenges, and I’ve also hosted them. I thought it might be useful to share some tips about how to get the most out of an intensive creative challenge.
Why Do It?
Writing is a solitary experience – we are only accountable to ourselves and that can be isolating. A 30-day challenge provides the opportunity to:
- Focus: Put your writing front and centre for a set period of time.
- Commit: Show up at the page every day.
- Establish Boundaries: Protect your writing time as an integral part of your day.
- Create a Writing Habit: It only takes 22 days to form a habit.
- Be Part of a Community: Enjoy support and encouragement around a shared experience.
- Be Surprised: At what you can accomplish in a single month!
What to Expect?
Week 1 – enthusiasm, excitement, fun – it’s a novelty and you’re full of ideas!
Week 2 – life intrudes, miss a day and it feels like failure, habit starts to slip.
Week 3 – inspiration fades, repeating yourself, overwhelm, time to push through.
Week 4 – almost there, renewed spurt of energy, rush of adrenaline, triumph!
Top TIPS for Surviving NaPoWriMo
It’s easy to become overwhelmed and burn-out when doing an intensive
challenge like this, or to miss a day due to the everyday responsibilities and
feel like a failure. Here are some ideas to help you make it through.
- Go easy on yourself: NaPoWriMo is a bit of fun, not another chore. If you miss a day, start again the following day. If need to take a day to catch your breath, same. Don’t write off the whole challenge because of a couple of missed days. At the end of the month, you will still have achieved much more than you normally would or had even thought possible.
- Manage your mindset: The challenge is derived from NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month in November, where the focus is on quantity, not quality. Think of it as a 30-day scavenger hunt – you want to spark an idea, capture the essence of it and move on. Switch off your critical voice. Knowing that these are fast first drafts takes the pressure off. As Jodi Picoult says: ‘You might not write well every day but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.’
- Limit your writing time: I recommend a 15-minute free-write. It’s enough time to explore an idea or prompt but not so much that it will interfere with the rest of your day. It keeps the bar nice and low and the challenge manageable. Setting your alarm clock 15 minutes earlier or taking the time out at the end of the day isn’t too much of a hardship.
- Use prompts: Prompts focus the mind on finding the best way to write about a subject, rather than finding something to write about. It’s one less barrier to getting started and they can startle interesting responses that, otherwise, you might never have written. There are lots of resources online for writing prompts and the official NaPoWriMo site publishes a prompt every day.
- Join a group: Because it’s a global phenomenon, there’s so much support out there for poets during the month of April. A group provides encouragement for when the novelty wears off and you need to dig a little deeper. Check in once a day to keep yourself accountable. I recommend a ‘no critique’ environment as the work is just at the first draft stage – the focus of the group should simply be on supporting and encouraging one another in the task.
- Don’t try to write a complete poem in a day! Poems need time to come to fruition – this is about catching an idea, getting enough down on the page to pick up again later but do try to get the complete shape of the poem if you can. You’re creating a store of potential poems to come back to and develop.
- Manage Expectations: Not every idea will be genius and that’s OK. There is more to be gained in showing up at the page every day. It trains your mind to be receptive and open to new ideas. Think of it as a month of new beginnings, of exploration rather than achievement.
- Don’t Cheat: If you’re working with prompts, it can be tempting to pull a poem with a similar theme out of a drawer to give yourself a day off. The problem is your brain knows you didn’t do the work, that you’ve let yourself off the hook, and – because brains like problem-solving – it immediately goes looking for other ways to bunk off, the scamp! I recommend the fifteen-minute free-write for this reason – it’s achievable, even on the busiest of days. And if you need a day off, it’s better just to acknowledge this and start fresh the next day.
- Experiment with Poetic Form: Not every poem has to be an epic! On the days when the words are in short supply, try one of the many short poetic forms like Haiku, Cinquain, Triolet or Sonnet. Here’s a great resource of 100 Poetic Forms to play with.
- Ego & Competition: Challenges and group dynamics can quickly bring out your competitive streak – ignore it! The only person you are competing with in writing is yourself – your last poem, your best ideas. Don’t get caught up in ego trips or mind-games.
- To share or not to share? It’s daunting to share a first draft with a group of strangers – I leave it up to you to decide if it’s the right choice for you. Other options are to share a line or two that you like from your free-write or to simply report how you got on that day. I do think it’s important to post something every day even if you’re finding it hard to write (especially if you’re finding it hard to write). It’s a good way to check in with your writing self and reading the group’s responses to the challenge may shake something loose!
- Read other poems: Whenever I feel stuck in my writing, I’ll pick up a collection, start to read and within minutes ideas are sparking! In order to draw from the well of inspiration, we first have to fill it. A great resource is the Poetry Foundation’s Poem a Day – sign up to their mailing list and you’ll receive a poem a day in your inbox.
If that’s whetted your appetite, there are still a few places left in my NaPoWriMo April Write Off – a private Facebook group with prompts, daily advice, inspiration and lots of feedback and encouragement. Click the button below to sign up.
Featured image by Anna Sullivan for Unsplash.
Welcome to the April Write Off – A #napowrimo 30 day Challenge!
National Poetry Writing Month is almost upon us – the time of year when writers around the world take on the challenge of penning a poem every single day for a month.
Are you ready to make 2019 the year you conquer #NaPoWriMo???
Following the success of the January Write Off, I’m launching a brand spanking new 30 day challenge to spark your imagination and get those creative juices flowing in April.
It’s the perfect way to hold yourself accountable to your writing goals during #NaPoWriMo.
Writers on my mailing list always get first dibs on new opportunities and over half the spots have already been snapped up overnight. Numbers are limited and the remaining spots will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
All the information is on the website – just click the button below for details. And if you have any questions, drop me a line.
Hope to see you in the Challenge!
If you’re stuck for a perfect gift for the poet in your life – or want to drop a hint to Santa for yourself – gift vouchers are available for my one-to-one poetry mentoring sessions.
Each session includes a preliminary report on up to 6 poems (or 150 lines), a one-hour mentoring session via Skype/phone and a follow up email with reading recommendations.
The voucher can be personalised and delivered by email, ready to be printed and popped into an envelope, ready for Christmas morning.
And if you’d like to know more about what to expect, here’s what one writer had to say about a recent poetry mentoring session:
‘I didn’t have any set expectations, but I did have hopes and these were more than matched by the turn of events. The initial written feedback immediately latched on to the problems that I was experiencing and the mentoring session advanced tidily from there into a detailed critical examination of my poems… It was pretty focused – sometimes very focused – on the details of how I could advance my skills and understanding of form and content. This focus was facilitated by the relaxed and discursive mode of joint examination of my poems. I got so involved that for a while I forgot the time and everything else really, becoming pretty well immersed in the liminal moment of it…which (speaking as a teacher myself) I think is pretty much exactly how teaching / learning events should be. I found it powerfully effective as a tool for opening up blockages in my own thinking process and revealing potential ways that I can advance my skill and understanding as a poetic writer.’
– C. Sparks, Co. Sligo
To book, go to the poetry mentoring page on my website OR just drop me a line!
Over the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of interest in the one-to-one poetry mentoring sessions I mentioned in the November poetry list. To save time (and prevent repetitive strain injury from writing emails), I’ve added a dedicated poetry mentoring page on my website with all the details.
And, in the spirit of Black Friday, I’m offering mentoring sessions at a special reduced rate of €50.00 (usually €75.00). There are only 10 available and when they’re gone, they’re gone. The offer begins at 12.01 am GMT on Friday 23 November and runs until 11.59 pm GMT on Monday 26 November.
The sessions can also be purchased with a smart presentation voucher (digital), if you’d like to buy one as a holiday gift.
If you have any questions about poetry mentoring, don’t hesitate to contact me!
Featured Image: George Kourounis
When I started this blog back in 2014, I posted fairly regularly about poetry, and writing in general, but gradually life took over and the posts slowly whittled down to the monthly competitions and submissions list.
It’s been on my mind for a while that I could be writing more here and when I saw the call-out on Twitter at the end of last year for poetry bloggers to post weekly for a year, I jumped on board (I’m sneaking this post in under the wire for Week 2)!
The Revival Tour Poet Bloggers 2018 comprises almost 100 poetry bloggers across the world, covering everything from writing, reading and reviewing poetry to interviews to writing successes and failures – anything and everything to do with writing poetry. A big thank you to Donna Vorreyer and Kelli Russell Agodon for getting the tour off the ground!
For my part, I’ll be drawing from my 10+ years of writing and submitting poetry, two years as a poetry editor, an enormous To Be Read book pile and other creative interests, including art and design. I also have a particular interest in social media and how writers present themselves online.
If you have questions about any of the above or there are other areas of poetry that you’d like to see articles about, please leave a comment below. I’d love to know what aspects of poetry you’re interested in!
In the meantime, check out the full list of The Revival Tour bloggers and discover a new favourite read.
The people of Ireland have voted YES for marriage equality — regardless of sexuality — in a public referendum, with one of the largest turnouts in voting history; we are the first country in the world to make this choice by popular vote.
I’ve never been prouder to be Irish.
The escalating momentum of #hometovote, over the past couple of days, with Irish men and women abroad pouring back into the country by train, boat and plane, to ensure their voices were heard, has been extraordinarily moving.
The public outpourings, the crowds at Dublin Castle this afternoon — both in the courtyard and bringing the streets to a standstill outside — as the results were announced, and the inevitable celebrations carrying on well into the night, signal something else: national pride and a return to joy. Continue reading
This week sees the launch of Double Shot
– a series of poetry readings at the new Books Upstairs
premises on D’Olier Street, which pairs an emerging poet with a more established peer, to provide reading opportunities for poets who don’t often get to read in Dublin. The first of the series takes place this Wednesday, 25 February from 7pm and features Kate Quigley
, Graham Allen
and Jessica Traynor
, who is also the event organiser.
I had a quick chat with Jessica to find out more about Double Shot and her latest role at the Abbey.
Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2015 kicks off tomorrow (12 Feb), with a fantastic line-up of local, national and international poets over 4 days. Guests include Don Share, Jo Shapcott, Lavinia Greenlaw and Peter Fallon but, as well as the big names, the festival includes debut launches from the winners of the Fool For Poetry chapbook competition, a focus on independent literary journals in Ireland – The Penny Dreadful, Poetry Bus & Southword – and the Prizegiving for the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Competition, won last year by Breda Wall Ryan.