Wislawa Szymborka–one of our Nobel Prize winning writers (a poet)—earned that prize with every word. She’s come into my consciousness a lot lately, as I’ve been wrestling with my novel. If you’re interested, Narrative Magazine has some of her work featured at the moment. I think her writing’s amazing.
As for wrestling with my novel (don’t we all?), I start every day with poetry. I read something, like Szymborka’s work, and I write poetry. Perhaps I start something new. Maybe I work on a poem I’ve been working on for weeks. Maybe I prepare a poem to send out. There’s something about working in a medium that requires me to be concise, exact, and imagistic that gets me in the mood for my writing day.
Whether I work on it for only a few minutes or even an hour or two, when I reach my natural stopping point, I’m ready to work on my novel and I know that my poetry work improves my prose. Its heightened language is the perfect jumping off point for writing anything else.
When I worked in an academic library, with responsibility for research and publication, I started with poetry before writing that form of writing, too. My poetry work had the same effect.
This is the infamous month of NaNoWriMo, which I’m using to spur me on to the next draft of my novel. The requirement to write 50,000 words in a month can be daunting and logic dictates that spending time on poetry rather than plunging in and writing my novel lacks sense, that it would be better to take that fifteen minutes to two hours in order to clack out more prose. But it doesn’t work that way for me. Poetry first. Better and more productive prose second.