master your message
in seventeen syllables
make every word count
Nine months ago, inspired by the Creative Community in which I participate, I started writing haiku.
Perhaps you remember haiku from grade school.
They are three line poems with a restricted syllable count, as follows: 5/7/5
Most haiku are about nature. My haiku were different.
One day when I was struggling to stay on topic with a blog post, I challenged myself to distill its essence into a haiku.
It worked. With the haiku in front of me, I was better able to edit out the parts that were off topic. I saved them for another day.
And so began a daily practice of writing haiku to summarize my blog posts. Sometimes the haiku has stood alone as a blog post.
All total I’ve written hundreds of haiku in the last 9 months. Many are not yet published.
Here are five things I have learned in the process of writing at least one haiku a day for 9 months.
(1) Haiku are fun to write
That’s reason enough to do it. Haiku are like puzzles. You have to make the words fit.
(2) Haiku are challenging to write
Writing haiku is challenging both creatively and intellectually. Especially when the haiku come after the blog post.
(3) Writing haiku is a good exercise to focus your writing
If you tend to veer off tangent in your writing, this is a great exercise to help you distill your message. You really need to make every word count.
(4) Haiku come alive in combination
Sometimes I have taken random haiku I’ve written and put them together in a multi-stanza poem. It’s fascinating to see them come together in this way, like a conversation.
(5) Little things add up to big things
I have a document in which I’ve compiled each haiku published on the blog since April. Every so often I read through them and am amazed by the cumulative impact of them. It’s a testament to the fact that writing just a little each day adds up. You don’t need 1,000 words or 500 or even 250. Write 17 syllables a day for 9 months and you’ll have a beautiful body of work.
I still count with my fingers
After writing so many haiku, I often will think in haiku: I’ll hear myself form short sentences in rhythm.
And yet even after writing hundreds of haiku, I still count the syllables using my fingers.