It’s more than thirty days into The 100 Day Project, where I decided I would write 100 Days of Poems on Instagram.
I’m already a little behind – by about four days – and I’m trying my best to catch up. The best thing so far about doing a project like this is pushing through the resistance and the creeping sense of boredom that shows up around this time – and managing to publish something, even if it isn’t anywhere near as good as you want it to be. In the end, this project, for me, isn’t about perfection, or publishing words that I’m happy with, but about challenging myself to be braver, sharing vulnerability. Most writers know what it’s like to share something and be afraid of sharing it. Even when it’s fiction, when it’s ‘made up’, to some extent we are still sharing something that came from us. We can grow thick skins and be prepared to have criticism and even insults (and rejection), but there is always that fear that the work we show isn’t good enough.
Poetry has always been something that I only write in notebooks, to express something, to heal and work through feelings and memories. In my teenage years, I used to post bad poetry and lyrics on boards in the now defunct Bolt.com social media site, and would get comments and constructive criticism. I was confident enough to keep doing that even though some of what I wrote exposed aspects of myself that we tend not to share as adults, unless we are used to writing about issues that display vulnerability. At some point, I stopped writing and sharing poems and lyrics – in fact I had a long stretch of my late teens and early twenties when I didn’t write for myself, but instead focused on writing essays for school and university. I picked up writing again only when I started a blog, back in 2005. Only then did I tentatively start writing poetry again in my handwritten journals.
So as a form of writing, poetry has traditionally been a conduit for emotion for me. Struggling with showing that particular vulnerability to others is why it took me so long to consider sharing it, or writing it, to an audience. The first time I shared a poem here recently was last year, when I started to share ‘Late Night Poetry’. There is something about reading and writing poetry at night, when emotion comes to the surface and you are processing the thoughts and moments of the day. In this respect, my poetry writing has been challenged – I’m writing poems more often in the daytime. I’m not sure what effect this has had on my poems just yet. Some of them are fictional – I’ve dipped my toes into writing about imaginary situations and people (or creatures) – and some are more about human beings and ideas about the world. In this way, I’ve tried to challenge myself to step away from using poetry as just a path to explore my own emotions.
There is still that fear when sharing poetry though, simply because the poems I write lack the formal structure of traditional poetry, and often are ‘prose’ poems without any internal or visible rhyme schemes. Poetry still has this aura of difficulty and inaccessibility, a form of writing that takes years to master, and which readers have to ‘decode’ to understand. I enjoy all kinds of poetry, traditional to modern, and appreciate that the kind of poetry I write is not going to be enjoyed by everybody. I’m also teaching myself the rules and structures of traditional and modern poetry, by reading Ordinary Genius by Kim Addonizio, and reading as much poetry as I can, using this project as a chance to learn something new. For poetry prompts, I’ve occasionally used The Daily Poet by Kelli Russell Agodon and Martha Silano.
The feedback so far has been positive, and I’ve enjoyed reading poems by other people in the Instagram poetry community. To start with, I took my own photos for background images, but found that this quickly became overly complicated and time-consuming, plus too much ‘noise’ and contrast in the photos I took meant that sometimes the text was only just visible. So I’ve fallen back on using Unsplash.com and attribution free websites for images I can edit and use for the backgrounds. It’s worked well so far and I can match the themes of the poems with the images. I’ve been using three things to edit photos and add text to the images – Color Story and PicLab on my iPhone, and PicMonkey on my laptop. PicLab works well for smaller poems with shorter lines, but can be a little frustrating trying to get the right size of text. PicMonkey works much better for moving around stanzas of poems to fit an image. I like the filters and tools in Color Story but VSCO would work just as well (or your favourite photo filter app).
So far, despite the difficulty in keeping disinterest and resistance at bay, I’m feeling that glow of achievement that comes with something challenging. Being able to see my own poems all together on the hashtag – #100DaysOfLWPoetry – helps to keep me focused and to see how I’ve progressed. The 100 Day Project community is amazing too – such a variety of projects and so supportive of each other. With things like this, the community is definitely one of the most important aspects, finding people who are doing similar things, or the complete opposite. I’m looking forward to the next 65 or so days!
‘Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.’ – Leonardo da Vinci.