How To Improve Your Writing In 2 Minutes A DayDec 29, 2022
I’m not sure how or why the idea of writing a haiku poem every day popped into my head when I was making New Year’s resolutions at this time last year, but it did. I went with it. I grabbed myself a cheap Kmart 2022 diary, refreshed my knowledge of the rules of haiku (3 lines consisting of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables) and kicked off my year of writing poetry on January 1st:
Casual family day
Sleep-in, shopping and bike ride
I had no idea how much I’d come to enjoy my nightly practice of reflecting on my day and squishing it into 17 short but powerful syllables. Nor did I realise the many benefits this 2-minute activity would attract.
I’ve loved this daily practice so much I’ve decided to continue it again next year and I’m encouraging you to do the same. I thought I’d share four of the unexpected benefits I experienced through my haiku-a-day challenge to help inspire you to join me next year (or next month if you’re coming late to this or think the whole year is too daunting).
Benefit 1: Increased word consciousness
The most obvious benefit from reflecting on my day in just 17 syllables has been a significant increase in word consciousness and word nerdiness. I pay so much more attention to words (and their syllables) now.
Each night, when I’m struggling to stretch for the 7th syllable or trying to shorten a 6-syllable line into a 5-sylabble one, I’ve had to engage my internal thesaurus to find better words. I don’t just pick any synonym though; I strive to find one that conveys my intended meaning with a different number of syllables. E.g. swapping ‘time’ for ‘hours’ when I need a 2 syllable word to finish a line.
A few months into the challenge I became aware of the fact that I was ending too many of my first lines with the word ‘day’. E.g. Book revision day. Another wet day. Course recording day. I did this 20 times across the year. Once I noticed this pattern, I banned myself from using the word 'day' at the end of my first line and focused on choosing different words instead.
Another fun word focus was the exciting search for 5-syllable words. Like a total word nerd, I felt an internal spark every single time I got to use one- which happened 9 times: cardiologist, re-establishing, vulnerability, invigorating, unmotivated, anniversary, unpredictable, prioritising, revitalising.
Benefit 2: Increased gratitude
Some people keep gratitude journals to help them reflect on all the positive things in their lives. Writing my daily haiku before bed encouraged me to reflect on all the things I’d experienced in the day- good, bad and ugly. This incredibly short practice helped me to be grateful for the good things and also gave me confidence to know I could deal with the hard things (thanks #2022).
Benefit 3: Improved writing skills
I once heard a spoken word poet say the most effective way to improve your writing is to force yourself to write in haiku. She likened writing haikus to ‘dancing in chains’, in that you have to convey a maximum amount of meaning but have only a limited number of syllables in which to do it.
When thinking about crafting my nightly haiku I realised I could either write a little about a lot (meaning that, like my January 1st attempt, my haiku would resemble a shopping list of things I’d experienced during the day) or I could write a lot about a little (meaning I could choose one thing from my day and go into more detail on that). Reflecting on my day in search of my ‘one thing’ helped me to improve my ability to write about tight and manageable ideas - a key quality of the IDEAS trait in writing. It helped me to think more deeply about how to describe this one event / experience and usually ended with a more effective haiku as a result. Compare this ‘lot-about-a-little’ haiku to the ‘little-about-a-lot’ one I wrote on January 1st:
Bike riding return:
Nervous start, wobbly hill
Glorious half hour
Benefit 4: Authentic motivation to read more poetry
In search of more economical ways to convey deeper levels of meaning through my haikus, I found myself seeking out mentor texts to read and learn from. I ended up reading more poetry in one year than I had read across many years previously. Some of the verse novels and poetry books I read included:
- The Way of Dog by Zana Fraillon
- The Little Wave by Pip Harry
- Are You There, Buddha? By Pip Harry
- All Dogs are Good by Courtney Peppernell
- Living on Stolen Land by Ambelin Kwaymullina
Poems that make Grown Women Cry by Anthony and Ben Holden
I loved studying the poetry in these books to see how the authors had used strong words and clever turns of phrase to convey meaning. I was constantly amazed at how clever the authors were. The more mentor texts I studied, the more my haikus moved away from being meaningless ‘shopping lists’ into more meaningful reflections of my day. E.g:
Precious Minion time.
Eating, talking and laughing.
Full heart and full home.
What’s hard to believe is that all these wonderful benefits came from just 2 minutes of writing per day. 2 minutes!
With just a pen, a diary and a hand (to count syllables on), you too could experience these positive benefits.
So, will you be joining me for a month or 12 in my haiku-a-day challenge for the next 12 months?
Related Blog Posts:
- Poems To Celebrate World Poetry Day
- 4 Books To Spark Start-Of-Year Notebook Writing
- Writer's Notebook: 5 Myths To Debunk
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