Thursday, September 15, 2011

Only Seventeen Syllables

Some days I don’t feel like writing, and I start to wonder why I bother. I mean, what’s the point? In a couple of billion years we’ll all be space dust anyway, right?

When these thoughts grab me I try to remember that writing puts me in touch with my “Creator Spirit,” even though I can’t define what that is. Writing makes me whole, even when I write badly. (Even bad stuff needs a creator.) When I don’t write, I’m not whole or in touch. It’s a survival thing for me.

Yes, I know how grandiose this sounds. Who am I to think I am an artist whose work will last for centuries? I’m not Shakespeare or Michelangelo. I should pay attention to my little life and let all those high-falutin’ (my grandfather’s term) ideas go. I don’t have time to write, anyway. Some days there are pressing concerns in my life that get in my way. (You know, like laundry or tweezing my eyebrows.)

About twenty years ago, I read a book about writing. Unfortunately I can’t remember the book’s name or author. (I read a lot of books about writing.) I remember it had a blue cover, but that’s about it – except for one suggestion the author made. She (I think it was a woman) suggested writing one haiku poem every day. Haiku are short – only 3 lines and 17 syllables, and yet when you write one, you are creating a piece of art that was not there before, no matter how good or bad it is. If you write one every day, then every day you can claim, with perfect truth, “Today I created something – today I am an artist.”

I thought this sounded like an interesting experiment, so I thought, “I’ll try it.”

Every day since then (well, nearly every day – about 350 out of 365 days each year) I have written one 17-syllable haiku. Five syllables on the first line, seven on the second, five on the third. I write it in the morning, and even if I write nothing else the rest of the day, I have still written something that day.

By this time I have a lot of haiku. (I hasten to say that not all of them – perhaps not even most of them – are good haiku. But then, some are excellent.)

Today I am an artist. This is a mighty and powerful statement. If you ever question why you are a writer (and what writer doesn’t?) I suggest you try writing one haiku a day, and every day you will be able to say this too. Eventually you will find yourself believing that it is true.

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
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  1. Interesting idea. I'd be a total failure, though. We had to write them in high school, and it was more like a math assignment to my poor brain.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  2. What a cool idea, Kim! I remember writing Haikus in school. I'll have to give it a go again!

  3. It must be fun to go back and read them all!

  4. It's like the young dancer who said to Martha Graham, "Should I be a dancer?" And Martha Graham said, "If you have to ask, the answer's no." A writer will find a way to write because she must, or she'll be miserable.

    Yet I find that "writing" doesn't have to have to result in product every day. Being a writer is a way of viewing the world, and sometimes the experiencing and the perceiving and the digesting is activity enough.

    While amassing ideas for a new book, Dean Koontz has said that sometimes he'll bar himself from writing until he can't stand it any more and then it tends to go quite well for him.

  5. Helpful post. Sometimes it is good to stretch ourselves and writing something that we normally don't is a good stretch.

    Kathryn, Dean's comment is interesting. I never thought of holding back and then letting the dam burst. Not sure that would work for every writer, but it is worth thinking about. And I love the response to the wanna-be dancer.

  6. Elspeth, it IS fun to go back and read them, and I am often surprised at the emotions they bring up. The best thing about this practice is not the product, but simply the practice itself. The less I stress about how good my haiku are, the better they get.

  7. Terry, there are certain things I'm not thrilled about writing either. I'm one of those writers who doesn't have to do it daily... some days I hate it even and practically have to put a gun to my own head! But it's the means to an end that nothing else can replace... a well-crafted communication. I do so envy people who are miserable when the don't write. I'm too often miserable when I have to. I'm guessing I'm not alone given the outrageous numbers of support groups everywhere. Misery loves company.

  8. Wow, Kim! This is a powerful reminder that we all need prompts, inspiration (even if it comes in the form of abstinence), perhaps an occasional prod to be artists/creators. Sometimes the words flow like a stream rushing downhill, and other times it's a dreaded job that has to be done—as Dani said—because we have a deadline or a commitment (even to ourselves).

    Kathryn's post makes an excellent point: daily writing is not necessarily synonymous with putting words on paper. It can be observation, mindset, even mental dialogue. Perhaps it boils down to whether writing is who we are or what we do.

  9. I like the idea of doing a haiku each day. It would be fun to collaborate and do it along with a photo a day project, writing the haiku to go with the photo.


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