Monday, January 19, 2015

Coming Off the Sidelines

In September of 2011, I wrote a post for the Blood RedPencil about my 20-year haiku practice and how it fueled me, nurtured me, inspired me, and helped me realize that I am indeed an artist. Last year I wrote a series of blog posts for the excellent and helpful website Assisted Self Publishing about my trek through the wilds of self-publishing with the result of this 20-year haiku practice. The following is an excerpt from one of those posts:  

Twenty years ago I did not know that a haiku practice would change my life, but it did. At the time I worked for the marketing department of a large technology company, and tried to pacify my lifelong dreams of being a “real” writer by writing “on the side.” One evening while on a business trip and staying in a nondescript hotel, I was reading a book about writing I had brought from home. I have since forgotten the author and title of this book; the only thing I remember was that the author suggested would-be writers might try to write just one thing per day, no matter how small. Even a three-line haiku would be enough, the author said, to prove you were a real writer, a real artist.

“I can do that,” I thought. Even though I was a single mom with a demanding job, surely I could manage seventeen measly syllables each day. So I determined I would try. I wanted to fulfill the dream I’d had since childhood. I wanted to lay claim to that powerful statement, I am an artist.

It worked – boy did it work. Five years after I began writing my one haiku a day I left my corporate job and became a full-time freelance writer, writing not only haiku, but many books of fiction and non-fiction, blogs and articles – both for me and for others as a ghostwriter. And despite my – and my family and friends’ – fears of poverty, this is what I am still doing today.

But until recently I thought of my haiku practice as “just for me” and had no plans to put my haiku out into the world, although I often shared one on my blog. The conventional wisdom is that poetry does not sell, so what would be the point? Then I began to wonder if my children would find my disorganized haiku files after I was gone, and maybe they’d like to preserve them as a family keepsake. Perhaps I should make it a little easier for them.

Most writers want to be remembered (we’re all Shakespeare-wannabes) so this seductive idea took root in my mind. And maybe the conventional wisdom was wrong. Even if it wasn’t, even if my haiku did not sell, so what? The reason I wrote haiku was not for money or admiration. It was because I am an artist and this art form is beautiful.

That brings me to this new project, the Haiku Books of Days. When you write one haiku a day for twenty years you end up with a lot of haiku – like over seven thousand of them. Of course not all of them are good haiku – some are pretty bad. (However, many are excellent.) But what was I going to do with seven thousand haiku?

The Haiku Book of Days is the answer. I reviewed my seven thousand haiku and winnowed out the bad ones, then the mediocre ones, then the almost-really-good ones (that was hard), and ended up with more than 2500 haiku that I thought were my best. Now, these haiku are not always upbeat or inspirational. Some are full of sadness and grief, some are angry. Some are funny. Some are just puzzled by the contradictions of life.

As I sorted the haiku, I took note of the broad themes that recurred often, and eventually came up with seven. Therefore the Haiku Book of Days series consists of seven books, each book containing 366 haiku, one for each day of the year (including February 29) organized into eight seasons. Each book’s haiku reflects a different theme. The books, all of which are now available online in both print and e-book versions, are:

My vision for this series is that readers can read just one of the books, or all of them, or some of them, in any order. They can read one haiku a day, or a bunch of them whenever they want. However they are read, I hope readers enjoy and ponder them.
My hope is that these books might inspire others to write their own haiku. I know from my own experience how powerful a haiku practice can be. I also hope aspiring haiku-writers will visit my blog,  – especially on Fridays, since that is the day I dedicate the blog to haiku, asking my readers to play a game of Haiku Friday with me.

In the seventeen syllables of one of my daily haiku:

come when you are called

on the sidelines of your life

nothing will happen

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit


  1. Terrific post, Kim, and those books sound great. I have always been intimidated by poetry of any kind, especially haiku. I have dabbled a bit with poetry, finding it a good exercise in concise writing, but have never tried haiku. I remember visiting your website before and being impressed by your verses. And I love your dog.

    1. Thanks, Maryann. I love my dog too, and I especially love ghostwriting for him because he has such a snarky personality and always says exactly what he thinks -- like today he took issue with my haiku about sheep.

  2. How lovely. Everything about this posts resonates with me. What a wonderful accomplishment.

    When you wonder how
    Creativity steps in
    Through simple words, thrive.

    1. Thanks, Liza. Your haiku is beautiful and true.

  3. Writing is like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. The funny thing is, I started out writing poetry only. Poems came easily. It was like learning a language, I "thought" in poetry. Once I started writing fiction and nonfiction, I stopped writing poetry and I have lost the facility of the language. On another note, one of the great things about self-publishing, is the return of poetry and short story collections. And, as you noted, you can have bound copies of your work for your family to enjoy.

  4. I just love day books - I probably have more than I should!

  5. How could you know how impressive your little bit a day would become? Amazing!

  6. Thank goodness for the BRP, Kim ... seventeen syllables per day ... just made it.

  7. Love this piece, Kim! I am a big fan of haikus. Love how they helped to fuel your artistic passions.

  8. Great idea, Kim! I starting writing poems as a child, years before the stories began flowing. Now, decades later, I can come full circle. I like that. :-)

  9. Thanks for the encouragement, everyone. I plan to keep writing haiku for the rest of my life, one per day. Perhaps one day (far in the future) I will try to put the dying experience into 17 syllables.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


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