NaPoWriMo in Retrospect

by krstaten

So this has been an experience.

I’m not sure if I learned what I thought I would. At the beginning of NaPoWriMo, I told myself that I thought what the point of this would be was to get a better understanding of my own writing process by thinking more critically about how I used language.

Which I did. I tried, most days at least, to think about the arrangement of words, to place them as precisely as possible. But the fact remains that this was a challenge that required me to write to a deadline no matter how burnt out I was, and some days I didn’t think as hard as I should have. Some days I stared at my laptop for two hours before words would come, and when they did, I just wrote them down for the sake of having SOMETHING.

The first part of the month I didn’t use any prompts. Then I realized I wasn’t entirely happy with what I was putting out, and started using more prompts. And then I realized that the prompts were my biggest motivator to write stuff I really liked–they were what forced me to step outside my own skin.

Which I don’t need NaPoWriMo to do, but it helped.

I also learned a lot about a different part of my writing process: The decision of whether to force writing when it’s “just not working.”

Normally this is something I absolutely never do. Doing it led to me feeling more burnt out on poetry than ever, and a lot of lying on the couch staring at the ceiling berating myself for not writing. This is an attitude I usually find more harmful than helpful, and I’ve never been an advocate of the advice “Write Every Day” because it can lead to this kind of resentment, frustration, and self-doubt.

I decided on those days to lower the stress on myself. To write a very short poem. To do something that focused more on form than content, so that I could give myself the freedom to experiment without the pressure to make something amazing. And a lot of those pieces turned out better than I had expected.

I may or may not do NaPoWriMo again. Depends on what I feel I need as a writer by this time next year. But I’m definitely glad I did this year. I actually only hate a couple pieces I wrote, and found myself pretty tickled with a handful.

A list of my favorite poems I wrote as a product of NaPoWriMo:

Day 4: “There is some stranger / who lives / on my balcony.”

Day 7: “None of the clocks in this home / have second hands.”

Day 9: “Tell me about the uncle / your family doesn’t talk about”

Day 20: “This home, this wreckage-box, / this failed salvation”

Day 27: “There is a balance / as delicate as a coin standing on its side”

And now, blissfully, back to your regularly unscheduled programming.

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