Daily sonnet writing, 10 months in

For the past few years, I’ve done a few daily rituals. I’ve written many times about my reading projects — reading through something big a little bit at a time. I’ve also been doing daily writing projects, but these have felt a little less focused.

Partly, that’s because they were less focused! In 2021, I set a goal to write 100-200 words a day of something. I ended the year with somewhere around 50,000 words of…nothing. I think I’d been hoping that all that free writing would spark a new novel idea but it did not.

Then, in 2022, I decided to write in 100-200 word chunks about a single day in the life of a person. I loosely based this on my experiences on an unseasonably warm and unreasonably busy mid-December day in late 2021. It had been a long day, so somewhat along the lines of Bloom trotting around Dublin, we’d follow this middle-aged woman around her suburb.

It was…ok. More focused than the year before, for sure. But not that interesting. I started re-reading it early this year and stopped about 120 entries in, which doesn’t really bode well for anyone else wanting to read it.

So in 2023 I took a different approach. I’ve listed “write a collection of seasonal sonnets” on several of my Lists of 100 Dreams. I’ve long been fascinated by these poems, and particularly the 14-line, iambic pentameter version where the first and third, and second and fourth lines of every stanza rhyme (plus a rhyming couplet at the end). Ideally the first eight lines set the scene and then the last six twist it somewhere else, though different poets have explored the format in different ways. This year I set a goal to write two lines per day, which comes out to one sonnet per week.

I’ve stuck with it, which means I now have around 40 sonnets. They’re not all ready for prime time. Some are terrible. Some could be better with editing. And some I quite like. I may try to put a collection of them out into the world at some point.

But broadly, I have found this version of a daily writing project both doable and compelling — each week I wind up with the draft of another poem! I only need to write 20 syllables each day. That doesn’t take much time. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are more challenging than Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, as I need to match the rhyming scheme from those days. But my Sunday/Tuesday/Thursday self tries to make things somewhat easier on my Monday/Wednesday/Friday self by choosing words to end each line that at least have multiple rhymes. (Saturday, couplet day, is a project unto itself.)

Coming up with topics has been a mix. Some Sundays I feel like I don’t have much, but I just put something down, and the upside of this project is that I can start another poem the next Sunday.

Anyway, I’ve found this writing project enjoyable enough that I think I will continue it in 2024. Then by the end of that year I’ll have over 100 sonnets. There’s no reason I couldn’t have plucked this item off my List of 100 Dreams at some other point, but I didn’t. Sometimes we just need to figure out the right structure to make goals feel doable.

In other news: A somewhat more chill weekend… On Friday night, we took the big kids and my mother-in-law, who is visiting for a few weeks, out to dinner at a steak house. On Saturday, my husband’s oldest sister and her husband came to visit. We were going a little stir-crazy in the rain, but then I took them over to Chanticleer, a local garden, while my husband was buying the 16-year-old semi-formal clothes (he decided last minute, to go to homecoming on Saturday night…). We were about the only people in the garden with the rain, but we had rain jackets and it was absolutely lovely — fall flowers plus fall color in general is just the most magical combination. Plus all colors look brighter against gray skies. That 90 minutes completely changed my mood for the day. Also a reminder that bad weather doesn’t always have to stop things (see Dutch Wonderland the weekend before).

Photo: Whimsical display at Chanticleer


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