Yesterday I entered the Poetry Society's National Poetry Competition, which closes today (typical of me to go virtually to the wire with this). If you're interested, you can still enter online - go to www.poetrysociety.org.uk - and even if you don't intend to enter it's still very interesting to look at the past winners of the competition which are posted on the site. Have to say some of them left me cold but one which I thought was absolutely outstanding was the 2002 winner by Julia Copus, called Breaking the Rule. See what you think: it blew me away.
I've been toying with the notion of entering NaNoWriMo, which starts on November 1st. If you haven't heard of it before, this is how it works. You write a 50,000 word novel in a month. That's all there is to it. Then you post it to the NaNoWriMo site and they email you a certificate. Last year, apparently, 100,000 people entered and 15,000 of them actually completed the task. Why do it? Well, to kick start your writing, of course. The point is, it doesn't have to be deathless prose. It's about quantity not quality: it's designed to set you free as you feverishly try to churn out that number of words in the set time. This stops your neurotic editing tendencies, and doesn't give you time to contemplate your navel. You just write, write, write - and who knows, something significant may be liberated from your imagination in the process. Plus the satisfaction of saying 'Hey, I wrote a novel.'
I've just been looking at the website - www.nanowrimo.org - and thinking, shall I sign up? Those of you who are regular readers may well have picked up that I've been going through a difficult patch with my own creativity and have had serious doubts about going on - so I wonder if NaNoWriMo's playfulness might help. Part of my problem is that I'm too self-conscious and too self-critical, and I can never decide which of the many ideas in my brain deserves my full focus, so I spread myself about too much. Does that sound familiar to you? A month of dedication to one project might be just the ticket.
However, on balance, I don't think I'm going to go for it this year. I feel that it will add one more pressure to my over-pressurised life and if I fail it'll be one more stick with which to beat myself. If any of you are embarking on it, though, do let me know (or if you've done it in a previous year) - I'd love to hear about your experiences.