On (not) writing a poem a day

We’re almost halfway through National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo). The aim, for the uninitiated, is to write one new draft poem every day during April. Some will be forging ahead and may have amassed their full quota – maybe even more than that. Some will be struggling, unable to do it, worrying that their muse has flown the nest at this crucial time. There are Facebook groups which help (or hinder) progress, where people post their drafts to invite comments. Sometimes the people who run these groups post prompts, which again can help or hinder the manic scratching around for That Day’s Poem.

I’ve had fairly good results with NaPoWriMo. Once, I managed to do it, in fact I think I actually wrote about 35 new poems that month. Other times, I’ve reached 15-20 new drafts, which I thought was OK. Sometimes it’s a great way to kick-start that whole process, to fire up the brain cells which make these jumbles of words come crackling out of our fingers and on to pages or screens. It instils a sense of discipline or impetus – you say you’re a poet, so why aren’t you writing? But I see plenty of people who find it a struggle. Their lives get in the way, they get intimidated by all of the other incredible work that they see posted on the groups, or they just can’t seem to get going.

If this is you, don’t worry or beat yourself up – you’re not alone. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. It isn’t a competition, just a way to try to help us get into the groove of writing regularly.

This month, I’m determined not to write any poems at all, and it’s going brilliantly. I haven’t had to dash to find whatever scrap of paper I can when inspiration strikes. I haven’t carried that little nagging thought all month that today’s poem hasn’t been written. I’ve given myself the month off from all of that because quite frankly, it’s tiring! I realised at the end of March that I’ve worked on my poetry in one way or another once or twice (sometimes more) every week since 2014 – that’s over five years!

What this little holiday has allowed me to do is concentrate on selecting work for an anthology I’m co-editing. It’s enabled me to agree to write endorsements for two new collections by poets I admire. I’ve written a short story. And it’s even allowed me to write a new blog post, my first of 2019! Pretty productive.


  1. Thanks Ben that puts NatPoWriMo in a more healthy context. I was starting to get frustrated with the whole process till I thought slow down, read the prompts, make notes and come back to them (or not) later. Some days I can get something down but my brain needs time to mull ideas over. As you say this is not a competition, if was there would be a fee.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. And forcing ourselves to write when we aren’t really ‘in the zone’ rarely results in our best work. Good luck!


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