Vickie's 365 Buddhas Follow-up

Vickie Willis recently completed her 365 Buddhas project, creating a poem every day in 2015! 

What are the biggest lessons/skills you learned from doing your project? I learned to relax. To let go. To make "mistakes" and get over it. My project even morphed quite a bit while I was doing it. I started with a lot of random poems and free verse, then I started experimenting with different poetic forms, and then I ended up writing lots of short forms, specifically haikus and tankas, and then enhancing them with color and abstract textures. Posting each day and putting each poem out into the world was a tremendous thing. People saw it, and even if the poem sucked, the world didn't end, and no one threw tomatoes at me. And I had the next day to write another one. I learned consistency and patterns, not just in writing haikus, but in writing in general. Doing something every day changes the stakes somehow. The more full pages you have, the less power the blank page has to paralyze you. To paraphrase Rainbow Rowell, the more words you stack up, the cheaper they become. Shockingly, people would come up and talk to me about my poems, people at my gym, people at my 20th high school reunion, and I had no idea that so many people were actually reading them. People even have asked to use my poems for other projects of their own! That kind of encouragement and support has been invaluable!!

In what ways did the project change your life? I ran a half marathon last November and that same month I finished my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Now, these things may not seem terribly related at first. But, as it turns out, running, and running longer distances, is exactly like a 365 project. You have to do a little bit each week, and eventually, you just start to increase your distance. Before I knew it, boom! I ran 13 miles. As I was finishing up my half marathon training, and the year, NaNoWriMo approached. November is National Novel Writing Month, and the challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. I've tried for the past two years to do it, and I couldn't get it all done. This year, I did. I think that the habit of writing a poem every day made running every week and writing a NaNo novel so much easier. After having written nearly 300 poems by that point, a novel didn't seem insurmountable anymore. Thirteen miles seemed totally reasonable. I have a PhD in English, so I get setting and achieving goals--that's never been a problem for me. But having a DAILY practice is different. And having a partner, the king of kickassery, Julian Cook, was crucial for me in keeping that daily practice going, in being accountable every single day for creating something and creating the habit of creating. The habit of creating, and of sharing that creativity, is a daily discipline that, much like running, permeates the rest of my life now.

Now what? Now I've started another 365–technically 366–project. It's the Leap Year Photo Challenge. My friend (and the wife of my father's cousin), Debbi McNeer, is the brainchild behind this one. She was looking for a good photo challenge for 2016, and ended up asking me if I wanted to write the prompts for one. So I did. After studying many photo challenges, I came up with a list that's more evocative and impressionistic than many of the challenges out there. Our challenge has quotes, foreign words, abstract ideas, photo techniques, parts of speech, you know name it. And October is almost entirely an homage to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you've never watched, you could still participate (but you should remedy that very sad fact immediately). Since I'm going to be revising my NaNoWriMo this year into something that I could possibly publish, I wanted to do a different medium, and I'm a little photo-happy anyway.

Read Vickie's original 365 interview HERE.

See all of Vickie's poems HERE.

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