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I Told Myself “This Year, You Are Going to Try to Write A Poem Every Day.”

By Janell Schroeder

It’s the most common writing advice I’ve received through my four and a half years at school. “Write every day. Even if it’s nothing good.” I decided to try it and so far, I have failed, spectacularly.

My journey started on October 5, 2020. With a poetry class requiring twenty poems by the end of the semester, and only four qualifying poems written, I picked up a plain, empty journal gifted to me when I left my last job and decorated the first page. “365 days of Poems (or things like it).”

I’ve done my best not to force myself to write. I find, when I sit at a desk and put pen to blank paper, three things happen. Words flow out like a sieve and, even if they’re no good, at least I’ve written something. Or, I struggle and force myself and writing gets easier and I’ll spend the next few hours in that fugue state on a writing roll. Or I get twenty words out after thirty minutes and I’ll put the pen down and go play a video game. Guess which one happens most often.

I’ve had to train myself out of the student mindset of “I’m writing this for other people to see.” This journal is not meant for consumption. It’s meant for me to practice in and that means there can and should be some really, really bad poetry in there.

At the time I’m writing this there have been forty-four days since October 5th, and I have written a total of nine poems. My longest streak is two days, November 1st and 2nd. I am failing at my task, and that’s ok. No one needs it pointed out that 2020 has been one of the most stressful years of all our lives. However, with external factors aside, writing is what I want to do for a living. If I can’t write every day, even just 50 words, what does that mean for the future of my career?

It means I have a lot of practice to do.

“I’ve done my best not to force myself to write” is absolutely detrimental to this process. I do need to sit down every day, maybe around 8 PM because I feel most creative in the evening, and write for the sake of writing with no personal judgement. Maybe it will be easier to do after I graduate, and I’m not trying to juggle good grades and work and writing on top. Maybe I just need to suck it up and write some dang poems.

This journal has taught me a lot about how I write and what I’m interested in. Eventually, as I plan to actually write every day for 365 days and my timer is resetting every time I miss a day, I’ll have a whole book to look back on and go, “Wow, I was really emotional about my houseplants last January.” I want that experience. I’m going to try and make it happen and hopefully, along the way I’ll find a way to make consistency part of my writing life.

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