Being an artist means to me that everyday is a poem.

  • Name: Amy Spaughton
  • Occupation: Editor
  • University degree: Social Anthropology
  • Favourite artist: At the moment? The Singh Twins.
  • Favourite colour: Blue
  • Favourite sound: The scrape of pencil on paper and the hush of heavy rain.

Being an artist means to me that everyday is a poem. I was in the gift shop of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, with around a month to go until the end of the decade and no idea what I was going to do with it. I had returned to the city I had grown to love (triumphantly or otherwise) to graduate from the Master’s course I had dedicated the last year of my life to. After only two months of being thrown back to my parent’s house in London, when I had almost gotten over missing the city I had grown in and was just starting to reacquaint myself with the city I had grown up in, I was back. Back with all the wonderful friends and classmates seemingly from every corner of the globe and back in the city where I had first felt truly solo. I had come back to the dream just long enough to remember everything I missed and the vast and scary nothing I had planned. On my final day in the city, after spending the morning absorbing the splendour of the artistic achievements of others, I found myself (as I often do) in the gift shop staring wistfully at a display of hardback, foiled notebooks each adorned with a great artistic masterpiece. I had always written and felt sure that I always would but had never really felt confident enough to declare (or even whisper to myself) that I was a writer. I had often kept a notebook for my writing but took a fairly haphazard approach up until this point. I would mostly open them to a random page each time a notion came to me and would never reference any specific events. Those more organisationally inclined are probably screaming, I know. Seeing this pristine notebook of perfect pocket size, an idea came to me. Or more like a kind of strange self-oath, really. I decided that for the year 2020, I would write a page in one of these tempting notebooks for every day of the year. A page or something, of anything and of everything that entered my mind that annum. I brought the beautiful notebook you see below and waited in slightly fearful anticipation until January 1st to start my adventure. On the first page under Contact I wrote: “Every day is a poem” and set out to make it true. Now, five months later, I am out of pages (I spent way too long agonising over a second volume) and I have the opportunity to reflect on everything I have learnt so far from the practice.

Part of the process involves accepting that not every day will be a heart-wrenching, raw, resonating poem or a Sophocles-eat-your-heart-out philosophical realisation about the world. Some days will be purely reactionary feelings that fade as soon as you release them onto the page (these are still interesting to look back on). Some days will just be about how incredibly bored you are or how you feel completely dry of absolutely any creative thoughts. When lockdown began, I was sure that with little outside stimuli I would have nothing to say. It seemed impossible to me that anything could live in this vacuum I had found myself in. But, surprisingly, the well just got deeper (and stranger). Being inside meant that I had access to my notebook almost 24/7 and could suck up all those little ideas that previously would have been carried away by all the distractions of the outside world. I had also failed to notice that lockdown itself was a once in a generation stimulus in of itself.

I also discovered that page size dictates the length of your piece sort of like a timer. (Although it is important to know when the thought deserves two or even more pages) Aiming to fill at least one page per thought forces you to expand the idea past the first sentence while giving you a manageable endpoint. When you write every day with no specific purpose or project, all sense of decorum, consistent tone, style or message goes out the window. It breaks down a few of the constricting rules you decided long ago were essential (or were told by overzealous English teachers). One day I would sound like I was spinning an Arthurian yarn or corresponding with a relative in a period drama, the next would be a choppy, angry rant, the next a song soothing myself like an odd lullaby. (Some days I swear would not look out of place scratched onto the walls of an asylum. See: When I shut my eyes my veins are packed with purple broccoli and my eyelids smell like pears. I promise I am not writing to you from a padded room.) Some pages are so particular to our time that I barely need to check the date to know when they were written. For example: I am trapped in this pastel checked cage of soft, impenetrable fabric. I am only efficiency now. Only good time management for an unclear goal.

The practice also led to some interesting insights into the process of writing itself. For example, on day I wrote: I think, to write, to be inspired, you must, without directly looking at the thing itself, consume all you can by kicking up a storm, a personal tornado of dust with yourself at the centre and hope you breathe some or all of it in the right way and mix it with yourself and all the things you did not mean to kick up and all the things you did not want to consume and hope you can spit out sounds and shapes recognisable to someone and hope you can spit it on paper for posterity.

Capturing and expanding almost every thought that would normally go ungrown can also create some interesting ideas on key concepts in life. Having the excuse of the practice gives you a reason to waste time in a daydream you may normally dismiss and the act of committing it to paper allows you to develop it in private. For instance, one day I thought: Certain deaths bookmark life with an insufficient stone slab. This led me to think of what it means for death to be a bookmark and I concluded that It’s weight bends life towards it on both sides and distorts that pages and the words on them away from their original meanings. I thought on this throughout the day and then added that Some bookmarks are graceful ribbons always attached to the book and so always expected to be used when you finally pause for breath and they let go. Others fall from the sky and force the book closed for a while with their weight and finality. 

Looking back on what you have written (with a little distance is best) is also an interesting part of the process. Once you are no longer in the moment you are writing from, the words have an element of foreignness to them and you generally gain a new perspective on the thought you expressed. (Or occasionally you wonder what on earth you were talking about. See: Sometimes I wish I could pour a small number of pencil leads in my eyes, to hear that coppery tingle in its true form. I have no idea.)

At the start of the practise, I was worried that I would write nothing else. I had this fallacy in my mind that (and I think I may not be alone in this) my creativity for the day was finite. In truth, I found how much I wrote was directly proportional to how much I allowed myself to write, what amount of time I dedicated to it and how much I committed. (I ended up collecting together the pages I felt fit a theme such as isolation, the body and writing which you can check out here: idea I worried would stress me out or make writing feel like a chore, that seemed so daunting on January 1st has become an outlet, a crude form of therapy, a treadmill for my creative muscles and a bright, in-your-face sign telling me that the well will not run dry and that whatever happens you are and always will be a writer. Making every day a poem is a process that I believe can benefit anyone- creative or otherwise- and that can teach you a great deal about how you see the world. That is my challenge to you, dear reader, to go forth and let me know what you discover.

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