01 June 2014

Lessons for #blogjune from #NaPoWriMo

This year I've signed up for #blogjune, an annual blogfest in which a group of librarians, mostly from New Zealand and Australia, commit to posting daily on their blogs. I was in two minds about signing up. June is going to be a very busy month at work and home-life has been tough this year too. What convinced me to say yes was reflecting on the positive experience I had earlier this year with NaPoWriMo.

One of the things I do outside of work is read and write poetry: NaPoWriMo is an annual event in which people try to write a poem a day for a month. Lots of people post their poems online, but many others (including me) just use it as an excuse to carve some writing time out and see what happens.

So, what did I learn from this experience that I can apply to #blogjune?

1. Here's your chance to focus on quantity over quality

From NaPoWriMo I learned the same thing I have learned repeatedly in every writing workshop I ever been to (but somehow it never really sinks in); sometimes you've got to write some crap, maybe lots of crap, in the process of writing something good.

The point is to silence that nasty little inner editor we all have and get something down. Of the eleven poems I wrote during April, nearly half are first drafts worth spending some more time on. My usual rate of productivity would be about a poem a year (in a good year!); to write four or five good first drafts within a month made me feel great.

For #blogjune, I fully expect to be unhappy with at least 50% of what I write and post. Posting something that doesn't meet my usual stupidly high standards will, I imagine, be both terrifying and liberating. We can all do with some help to learn how to say, it's not great but it's good enough.

2. You can't wait for 'inspiration' to strike

All of the poems I wrote in April came about in one of two ways:
  • digging through old things I had written in workshops until I found something I wanted to noodle about with
  • responding to writing prompts from an external source such as the NaPoWriMo blog and Oulipost, the Found Poetry Review's NaPoWriMo project.
None of the poems came about from sitting at my desk waiting for the Muses to hand something down from on high. And if this had been my strategy, I would not have made it past Day One.

I've tried to apply these lessons to #blogjune by pulling together a list that includes some older ideas that are worthy of another outing (e.g. conference presentations that I never had time to write up properly, projects I worked on a long time ago but have new things to say about). I also found a source of external prompts (there are loads of blogs telling you what to blog about - this is the one I used).

This way I know that I shouldn't have to sit down during #blogjune and look at an empty screen while wailing, 'But I have nothing to say!'

3. It's good to have a goal, but it's meant to be fun

I didn't do as well at NaPoWriMo as I wanted to. I started strong and then petered out before having another little burst of energy at the end. My natural inclination was to beat myself up about this but you know what I realised: nobody cares but me. Yes, it would have been great to have had twenty-eight poems instead of eleven, but eleven was still a big achievement and one I should have been proud of.

There are no sanctions for #blogjune 'failure'; if I don't hit that arbitrary goal of a post a day I'm going to try hard not to feel bad about it. I am pretty sure I don't have to give up my ALIA membership and become a real estate agent if I miss a post or two (or three or four...). Phew!