This week, I’ve spent a lot of time working on one poem for a competition. I sent it off yesterday, Saturday, one day before the deadline.
I don’t know what’s made me enter more competitions this year, it’s not something I’ve ever done excessively, preferring instead to send my poems to magazines. I suppose I fancied a change. Next year, I’ll return to magazines. There’s no entry fee for magazines, for one thing, but I must admit to feeling guilty if I don’t subscribe, or at least buy one issue, so there’s always a cost factor, magazines or comps.
The down side of competitions, for me, is if they stipulate a ‘theme’. I find it hard to write to order. For this reason, I sometimes struggle in workshops. However, I enjoy the discipline of writing under pressure, knowing there’s a deadline, and I enjoy interpreting rules in my own way, adhering to a theme but coming at it from a different angle.
I don’t know how it’s happened, but I’ve evolved a pretty annoying and time-consuming writing process, involving three notebooks.
I start the poem in one notebook, write a few lines, a few phrases, then I copy some of those lines and phrases into another notebook, so the poem has more of a shape, then edit both versions, underlining words, trying out alternatives, then I write a third version in the third notebook. Then I switch back and forth between versions. At some point, I’ll start to type up another version. I feel that my method of working has regressed. I used to commit to print a lot earlier, printing out many typed versions and working on those. Perhaps this hesitancy is symbolic of how I feel about my work at this stage of my writing – which is insecure and hesitant. I’ve never felt less confident. I honestly feel this is a positive thing, though! I think it’s come about because of my wider reading and my wider exposure to different types of work which has made me question and doubt the value of my own writing. Obviously, this is troubling (to me) but as long as I recognise it’s part of my writing process (I hope it’s a phase, and that I’ll gradually regain some confidence, and, I hope, feel my writing has improved), I’m not despairing… too much.
Yesterday, I walked away from the competition poem because I felt it was total cr*p. It probably isn’t all that good, to be honest. Because it is so less original, vibrant and interesting than the kinds of poem I’m reading just now. But at some point I must have heard a faint echo of a teacher or a mentor from my very distant past telling me to finish and complete my project and to not be a quitter. Something roused me to stop loitering and get on with it. So I attacked the poem (more slashings out, copying out, juggling between versions, printing off, etc) and sent it off. What will be, will be. Or some such.
Any way, good grief, the UK weather is atrocious at the moment! An excuse to stay inside with pens and notebooks and write some more. There are two more comps I want to enter, deadlines approaching rapidly. Hope all is well with you.