My writing day begins every morning at breakfast. I have a hectic fulltime job, so the only time I can work on poems is while I’m eating breakfast, lunch, and a snack before bedtime. Yes, multitasking is my friend!
All first drafts of my poems are written by hand in little 3 x 5 spiral-bound memo pads I buy at the grocery store. And I keep everything I’m working on in my poetry notebook. It’s a zippered, 5.5 x 8.5, Rite in Rain Weatherproof Cordura Fabric Notebook Cover I bought years ago on Amazon for around $26.00.
It’s perfect for my writing needs. When you unzip it, there are two big side pockets on each side, as well as slots for 4 pens on the left side, and a smaller pocket for a 3 x 5 memo pad on the right side. In one of the big side pockets I keep the poem I’m currently working on. The other big side pocket contains scraps of paper with notes for new poems and poems that need to be revised.
I write the first draft of a poem by hand while I eat. Later, in my office, I type it up on computer, print it out, and put it back in my poetry notebook to be edited by hand at the next meal. Then I spend a few days editing by hand at meals and typing up the edits in my office. As soon as one poem is finished, I begin work on the next poem in my notebook.
And so it goes…
It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in three 20-minute writing sessions every day. I’ve published over 60 books and chapbooks with various publishers in the last 33 years using this process. And after decades of writing so many books and chapbooks, my brain is automatically programmed to think “book.” Every poem I write is written according to the theme of the book manuscript I’m currently working on.
Once the theme for a new book is established, I think about all the topics I want to discuss in the book and write one or two poems on each topic. Sometimes the entire first draft of a poem pours out all at once. That’s definitely a blessing! But it’s the exception. Usually, I tuck a topic away in my head and let it simmer for a day or two, while I finish the final edits on the poem I’m currently working on.
After a day or two in my mind, bits and pieces of the new poem are ready to be birthed and begin to pop out. This can happen anywhere: the post office, the shower, the car, at the sink while washing dishes, you name it. That’s why there are scraps of paper in my poetry notebook. When a poem decides to be birthed, I grab whatever is handy to jot down all of these bits and pieces before they vanish. As soon as I have enough material to create an outline for the new poem (beginning line, middle, and end line), I arrange these scraps of paper around my plate at my next meal and compose the first draft in a memo pad to be typed up afterwards.
When I’ve covered every topic in a new book and feel I have all the poems I need for that particular book or chapbook, I edit the manuscript a few more times before submitting it to book publishers. Or I enter it in a contest.
I rarely take a break after I finish a book. I just begin working on a new book at my next meal. By then I’ve already decided on the theme for the book and topics for the poems. Plus, I have all the notes I need to write the first draft of the first poem.
And so it goes…
This is my typical writing day and writing process. Strange as it may seem, it has worked well for me for decades, and it still does.
No matter how busy your life might be, you probably have time to work on your poetry every day if you’re willing to multitask. Just find one of your daily activities that will allow you to do that. If it seems impossible, consider this. You still have to eat, right? Just work on your poetry during a meal, maybe on your lunch hour every day.
You’ll be amazed how much you can accomplish!
Stamps is a poet and the author of over 60
poetry books, chapbooks, and novels in verse. Her poetry book THE YEAR OF THE
CAT was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005. She is also the recipient of 7 Pushcart
Prize nominations. Her poetry has
appeared in over 1000 literary journals and magazines worldwide. Currently, Laura is working on a new poetry
chapbook about PTSD, depression, anxiety, and chronic trauma. You'll find her
every day on Twitter at @LauraStamps16.