Fact: April is National Poetry Writing Month.
To celebrate, both amateur and established wordsmiths take on the annual NaPoWriMo challenge of writing a poem a day for the entire month. Then at the completion of the challenge, each participant has thirty poems to continue editing, shelve, or choose to send out for potential publication.
The task is arduous, yet fun. Exhilarating. Mind-boggling. Valuable. Revelatory. It can also be a bit overwhelming if you’ve never done it before.
Interested in trying it out, but don’t know where to start? Want advice on the best way to approach NaPoWriMo? Here are a few tips I’ve compiled based on my own experiences with this 30-day writing challenge:
First, practice beforehand if you can. I participated in NaPoWriMo for the first time in 2016. In order to gauge the level of difficulty it’d require, I wrote a poem a day every day in December 2015. It was extremely daunting at first, but after a while, it got easier. I also learned that I could participate for real in April with confidence because I’d done it before and succeeded.
Two, know that you won’t be satisfied with every poem you write. If you’re writing a poem a day for thirty days, not every poem is going to be your best. Some days, you’ll be excited to write and you’ll produce something great. Others, you won’t be inspired and you’ll scrawl out anything just to meet your quota. (I know I have). And guess what? That’s okay. The object of NaPoWriMo isn’t to write a bunch of poems that would make Shakespeare envious. It’s about consistently building and refining your craft and developing your voice as a writer. Half of your poems might be great and half might not. Write anyway.
Third, do what works for you. Some NaPoWriMo-ers search for writing prompts to help guide them and what topics they want to write about. Some don’t. (I personally fall into the latter category). With that in mind, I advise you to do what you feel will work best for you. And if you don’t have a preference either way, try mixing things up and using both techniques. It’ll definitely make your experience that much more interesting and memorable.
Fourth, decide what medium you want to use. Would you rather write out each poem in your journal or notebook? What about typing your poems in a Word document or a series of posts to share on your writing blog? Again, this is all personal preference. If you have a writing blog, but don’t want to share your poems until you’ve edited them more, keep them on your computer or in your notebook. If you’re ready to share them with the world, then post away. (Pro Tip: NaPoWriMo is a big deal on Tumblr. If you want to share your poems there, use the tags #napowrimo, #spilledink, and #poetry, and you can connect with fellow participants and read their work. They can also read yours–a win win).
Fifth, acknowledge that you’re going to feel like giving up. Whether it hits you on day 5, day 15, or day 28, know that it’ll happen at some point. It doesn’t matter if you’re participating for the first time or the twentieth time, NaPoWriMo is draining, both physically and emotionally. Do all you can to keep pushing through to the end and remind yourself what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Something else that also helps me is telling myself that I’m taking the entire month of May off and 1) not writing anything or 2) writing very few things. A large part of NaPoWriMo is perseverance. Don’t quit.
Sixth, if you do give up, know that it’s not the end. I participated in NaPoWriMo for the first time in 2016. I enjoyed it so much that I couldn’t wait for my second go-around in 2017. That year, I had a nine-month-old puppy. I was also maintaining a volunteer gig in PR and was still trying to land my first post-grad job. I started the challenge but only made it to day 10 because I had a lot of other things going on. Of course I was bummed that I had to quit–I didn’t want to–but it helped prepare me that much more for the next year. In 2018, my puppy was nearing two years old, and I had my first post-grad job. And guess what? I made it to the end of NaPoWriMo. (!!!)
Seventh, have fun. I continually reiterate how important it is to have fun when you’re writing. It enriches your experience that much more and motivates you to keep learning how to become a better storyteller. NaPoWriMo is the same. Yes, it can be draining and stressful at times. However, I firmly believe that the fun outweighs the stress if you stay open-minded. It’s not some kind of writing torture designed to make you miserable. It’s actually quite the opposite. I speak from experience when I say that I’m continually reminded how beneficial NaPoWriMo is to me as a writer. Plus, it’s really cool to look through the poems I wrote each year and note how much my style has evolved and how I’ve improved. It can be the same for you.
Finally, congratulate yourself when you reach the end. You did it! You made it! Before you start sorting through what you’ve written and decide to edit some things or send your poems out for potential publication, treat yourself to a celebratory cup of coffee, a good night’s sleep and an entire month–or two–off from writing. You have a lot to be proud of! : )
Have you ever participated in NaPoWriMo? What was your experience like? What tips can you offer your fellow wordsmiths?
Comment below or tweet me at @cmsellers14.