Monday, January 21, 2008

100 Words a Day

Barbara Ganley's post today references an student post with a simple idea for a frame: write 100 words a day. Over the holidays and during exam week I've been all over the place in my mind, but not writing much. Tomorrow we start the new semester, and I'm looking forward to re-establishing some rhythm in my writing life, and this sounds like a user-friendly goal. So I'm ready to play. So here are my hundred words for today. It was 98 when I pasted it in, but to get in the spirit, I just added two more. Extra points if you can tell which ones:


This then something. This then
a testament. This then a strand,
this a filament, this a pause. A net.
A waiting: the snowcrust crackling,
white clouded breath, all eyes and ears.

No song, this. No mere diversion.
No hours lost undredeemed. Thus far,
what you see, I see. I sense you there,
waiting as well. What you seek: light.
Breathe. Listen. This then. Something.

Now another. Never the last, each
only an instance. This, then this, then
This. Stand, listen, take another step.
The bow is drawn, the string is taut,
Now I see you. Now the arrow flies.

Process Reflection: Three nights ago I was having trouble sleeping and finally at around 2:00 a.m. I decided to get up and write a little in my journal to settle my head. I went to the kitchen and wrote for a while, then went back to bed and lay in the dark with words still stirring in my subconscious, which tossed up to me the first five words of this poem. I flicked the light on, and lay in bed with my notebook and began working into it. The first few lines came more or less came out of nowhere, out of the impulse simply to be writing. There were some lines in there that came out of connections only I could make, connections that a reader would not understand, so I gave the poem the working title "Code Poem." Then at the end first stanza I had this memory flash of being 12 years old on the farm, with the shotgun my father had recently given to me as a birthday present in my arms, trudging through the underbrush in the snow in the hopes of perhaps starting up a rabbit or a grouse. So at that point it dawned on me I had a poem going that was about writing, and about hunting, and about the way words present themselves: the rhythm of thought. By that time I felt like I had a good start and so I left it about half finished, turned off the light, and went to sleep.

Tonight after I woke up from a late afternoon nap and began thinking about what I wanted to do with this last evening before the new semester begins, I decided to see what I could do with the raw material. I re-shaped a few of the original lines, switched the title to "Orion" and the shotgun for a bow, decided on the stanza shape, and just pushed along toward the ending, which I had not planned, but which arose out of the several small decisions I had made along the way.

This is not the first time that a poem has come to me in that in-between space between waking and sleeping, when the conscious mind has relaxed its hold enough to allow words to arrive from another place.


Barbara said...


It was good to see you over on my student's blog, connecting over the 100 words exercise and now here, trying it out on yours. Lovely poem--in the tautness of the stanzas, the 100 words, the repetitions I find the between-ness that comes before deliberate action.

We've decided to set a topic every day for the full group to write about, as a way to explore 17 ways of coming at writing, and to continue to deepen our bonds with one another and to learn from one another. We're three days into this student-initiated experiment and having a blast! I'm adding you to our 100-words blogroll, so we can follow you as well.


Anonymous said...

I'm from Barbara's class and I noticed a new name on our blogroll. I really like what you did with the 100 words. It feels very complete and I like how you chose to write a poem. My entries so far have been fragments of memories that I'm trying to express and the 100 words is a challenge for me. I'm glad you've joined us!
PS What were the two words you added?

Bruce Schauble said...

Thanks, Allie. This has been a fun exercise for me so far. The question, I suppose, is how much fun it's going to be on day 27. But I like the idea of having a modest goal each day. My biggest problem as a writer is sitting down to write. Having 100 words as the target seems to lower expectations to the point where they're not intimidating. It's a little easier to get started.

The two words were "as well" in the second stanza. Not strictly necessary, but unobtrusive enough.