The Beauty of Being Prepared

On Having a Pre-Formulated Theme for Your Future Chapbook

Today’s Writerly Wednesday post started from my speculations whether or not having a theme for my chapbook helps. From there, my thoughts went to being prepared in general. Is creativity something you can direct?

I think not. But being prepared and having a direction in mind is really useful.

This year is my 9th in poeming for the November Poem-A-Day Chapbook Challenge. It is very similar to the April Poetry Month one, mainly in that you are supposed to write at least one poem every day. The differences start from there. In NovPAD you are also expected to follow specific prompts, while for April PAD, or NaPoWriMo, you can follow yourself and poem on whatever topic you like. Why is that so? Primarily because in November the goal is to use all or most of your resulting poems in a brand new chapbook which you might publish or submit to contests. Of course, no one stops you from doing that with your April-produced poems, yet that is not the explicit objective of the Poetry Month.
In 2010, when I first joined the magnificent community at Poetic Asides, I had no idea about chapbook or contests. I went there with the pure heart and enthusiasm for taking part in something new and wonderful – writing poetry with help and support from others who thought like me. Until that moment, I had never had a supporting community. I joined a couple of so-called “Poetry Clubs” at school and then at university, but honestly, they didn’t do much in the way of support or practical help. I don’t think those clubs sucked, I believe it wasn’t the right moment for me. Plus, let’s admit it, online is much easier. You may take your time, appear whenever it’s convenient for you and choose whether to write to a prompt or not.

In 2012, I started, as usual, simply trying to follow the stream. The previous two years I was doing NaNoWriMo along with the poetry thing, so it was both easy and difficult to write every day. Easy, because you are in the writing mood anyway. Difficult, well, you’ve guessed already. In 2012, I was collecting and sorting papers and articles that would help me in writing my thesis which was due in June 2013. That was instead of a novel that year. Because I was online all the time, I was able to follow the poem-a-day challenge and around Day 7 I noticed that I consciously chose to bend every prompt into a poem about my Dad. At first, the prompts fitted naturally, but after I found the tendency, I started looking for a fit even if there wasn’t one.

Nothing happened after that. Despite some great advice I received from fellow-poets on Poetic Asides, I never got down to actually compiling the good pieces into a book. But they are there, so I may.

In February 2014, I was writing to a month-long creative challenge. I participated in it 2 years in succession. The first time I tried to be diverse, but it didn’t work well, so in 2014, I thought I’d stick to poetry, as this is my medium. I saw again that poems go one direction, and from Day 7 or so, I started leading them in the same direction on purpose. I already compiled the Devastation of the Soul chapbook. Not published yet. I haven’t made up my mind what I’d do with it. Let it rest for a while.

This November, I created my theme a long time before November even started. I even had time to forget it, so I had to look in my earlier Tweets to see how I announced it. So, here’s a take away: announce, because you are going to forget.

The advantage: I am greatly relieved when I see the daily prompt because I know where to take it. I suppose I am one for preparation. Being prepared means a lot to me. It spares me from the initial chaos of wallowing in the swamp of not knowing which way to turn. It saves me a lot of time, energy and I can hit to poeming right away.
I can see this advantage working for me in my blogging activity, too. Now that I plan my blog posts and prepare by research and schedule I am able to meet the time frame I’d set for myself. I mean, having an Editorial Calendar is good, but not enough.

Maybe you have some other tricks and means by which you help your creativity get active and efficient. Or maybe, having read this, you think you should try it. Try it and in a month come back and tell me what happened.