Palm trees, resort

Palm trees in a St. Augustine condominium resort. One of the exercises in the regimen was to write in the voice of a persona, and – being on vacation at the time – I decided to write as a palm tree.

In December, crazy-of-all-crazy months of the year, I decided to sign up for the Southeast Review’s 30-Day Writer’s Regimen program. I’d seen posts on Twitter about it, and felt the pull of wanting to challenge myself by doing something different, as well as to generate new work.

I signed up somewhat spontaneously, the first week of the month, and by then had missed several days of prompts, writing exercises, riff words, podcasts and craft talks – all of which are available to participants through this program for a mere $15.

Although I started late and stopped participating early, primarily due to holiday commitments, I was surprised at how rewarding this experience proved to be. By month’s end, I had produced about 12 pieces, each of which came about due to some stimulus offered through the program’s exercises or daily stimuli. A handful were prose poems (very unusual for me); one was an essay that allowed me to explore complicated emotional territory and create a narrative out of…what might have felt like nothing before I started working on it, but which clearly was “material” that had been lurking in my subconscious . Just freeing up my imagination to create whatever form it wanted to was energizing and fun.

Nearly two weeks after the holiday break, I continue to work on my Regimen poems, some of which I’m already submitting to literary journals. I’ve thought back on the exercises, and how each evening after work, I’d give myself time to look over the daily Regimen content. I’d invariably think “no way” could I come up with anything:  I’d have worked eight hours at my day job, likely gone to the store, fixed dinner for my family, loaded or unloaded the dishwasher, done laundry, etc. before sitting down to write.

Then somehow, I would surprise myself and start writing, and keep writing, and then it was if my subconscious, compressed into the “regimen” of producing quickly, as my goal was to complete at least a draft of something, an idea of a poem, by the end of the day so that I could be ready for the next day’s prompts when they came.

Two things really interest me about my response to this program. One is that, as I mentioned, I can’t believe I have 12 new pieces, most of which I feel have potential — or at  least represent some type of growth I can learn from and apply to new endeavors —  at the end of a month’s time (and knowing I was actually productive over less than half of that month.) Secondly, I truly believe I got through the holidays and all the associated stress — gift buying, gift wrapping, cooking, party planning for family gatherings, house cleaning before and after family gatherings – because I had this completely selfish outlet I could immerse myself in at the end of each day, putting everything out of my mind through the intense refocusing I would end up doing in order to deliver on my commitment to produce new work and progress through the exercises with an open mind.

Now I’m scratching my head, going, “how’d I ever do that?  And in December!” But what a wonderful feeling to be awakened to the muse, to the creative process, in unexpected ways. I have a feeling I’ll be going back to the prompts and exercises still waiting in my email from the days I wasn’t able to respond, seeking fresh inspiration.

Oh, and here’s more information about the program, for anyone who’s ready to take the plunge.