Two days ago, I posted my 50th haiku in 50 days on Haiku Diem, and this seems like a good point at which to reflect on how the effort is going.
Shortly after launching Haiku Diem, I blogged about the issue of scarcity, and after fifty days of watching the haiku continue to appear on schedule, and even get better over time, I can report that though I still feel it, I no longer believe it. There are still days when I write a particularly good haiku and feel like I should save it. (For…what? Maybe for when my readership is bigger so I can share it with more people? I’m not sure. The feeling is never entirely rational.) However, I don’t hesitate any more to put that haiku right up on the sites.
Furthermore, I’m beginning to submit my other writing to venues much smaller than I’ve ever considered before. I used to feel I should try only with the larger publications, to maximize the impact of each poem or story, because they were a scarce resource that I don’t produce very quickly.
I no longer feel that way. Now, I want to get as much of my stuff out there as I can, as quickly as I can.
After all, there’s plenty more where that came from.
Feeding the dog
A new concern, however, is the need to post every day. It’s a logistical concern. Already, there have been a couple of work days so hectic that I wasn’t able to post until way later in the day than I usually like. And what if I want to take a vacation somewhere where there’s no Internet access? (Actually, I shudder at the thought for all kinds of other reasons, but still: what if?)
It’s like owning a dog.
I suppose that, following the analogy, I could ask a friend to post for me those days. I could queue up a week’s worth of haiku, and type out detailed instructions for the friend, and then fret every day I’m away over whether I left out some contingency. Or I could get one of those autofeeders. I am, in fact, currently working on automating the process. Already, some software I wrote formats each day’s posting for the various venues I’ll be posting them to (Facebook, Twitter, Buzz, the blog, and the mailing list) so all I have to do is copy and paste, and I can post to one of them so far (the mailing list) with just a click of a button.
The vacation scenario, however, is just an extreme case of the every day problem: the need to always set aside some time, not just for the posting, but for the writing. A dog needs more than just its daily bread; it needs attention, it needs love. What I’ve found through the years is that writing poetry is very different from writing fiction or non-fiction. The latter, I can now turn on and off like a faucet. Poetry, I still need to be in a certain state of mind to do. In the past, I’ve just let myself float into and out of that state, happy when I’m in it and unconcerned when I’m not. Now, though, I need to put myself into that state every day.
Maybe a better metaphor is walking the dog. You get home after a long day and you’re bushed. All you want to do is zone out for a couple of hours and then go to bed, but no, the dog still needs to be walked.
“Can’t I just let it out into the yard to do its business tonight?”
Instead, you pull yourself out of your easy chair, put your coat back on, and find the leash and a baggie for the poop, and off you go.
As you walk out the door, you note how serene the evening is. You didn’t get this feeling from it at all as you passed through it on your way home. The sun has already set, but there’s still a faint crimson haze on the horizon. You wave to a neighbor.
You remember how much you love your dog.
You walk a little farther than you intended. When your dog delivers that day’s poop, you say, “Good boy!” By the time you get back to the house, you’re glad you went.
A Facebook community
The most amazing thing about this venture has been the activity that has grown up around the Facebook page. Within minutes of a day’s haiku being posted, a handful of people will already have “liked” it. Not long after that, the first comment will appear. By the end of the day, the posting will have gotten somewhere between 40 and 100 “likes” and comments.
And those comments!
In addition to the usual thank-you’s and compliments, people are also posting their own poems, and commenting on each other’s poems, and even debating the proper structure of the haiku! (I never knew, for example, that the popular 5-7-5 form I’m following is not considered the best way to translate into English what’s actually happening in real Japanese haiku.) One commenter asked if anyone would be interested in becoming “haiku partners” and swapping haiku regularly, and another took her up on the offer. A community is forming around each day’s posting.
At the one month mark, I posted a thank-you to that community, and that posting, of course, received many great comments itself. Late that night came the best one of all:
“Until tomorrow, friends.”
One of the speakers at a recent SCBWI conference I attended made a very useful distinction between being a writer and being an author. I’ve known I was a writer most of my life, but for the first time, I now think of myself as an author. I’m not officially published yet, but every day, over two thousand people read my writing. They then comment on how much they like it, how each day’s little posting makes their day. They apparently pass the word on to their friends, as the page’s fan count is slowly growing.
You might be wondering what the exact distinction was that the speaker made at that conference. I didn’t leave it out of the previous paragraph accidentally. I left it out because I don’t quite agree with it. The speaker said that a writer is someone who writes purely for art’s sake, while an author is someone who works at getting published. I would alter that second definition. An author is someone who serves a readership.
And now, on to the next fifty days, and the hundred days after that, and who knows how much longer? When I started this exercise, I thought of it as a daunting challenge that might even devolve into a death march. Now, it just feels like a part of my life.