Everything’s a Dandelion

What I learned writing one haiku every day for six months 

Dandelions   (1867–8) by Jean-François Millet. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Dandelions (1867–8) by Jean-François Millet. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

I started writing a daily haiku exactly six months ago today. Why? No particular reason at all, really.

I was sitting at a roaming desk in the office, trying to work through something or other, but the ideas weren’t coming. So, following a random whim, I wrote a haiku. I’d just eaten lunch out in the hot October sunshine (ah, L.A.), and that became my launching point:

 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Chicken kabob spears
glisten black in autumn’s sun.
Way back these were trees.

 

Once I’d typed it out, I felt refreshed — it was like a bolt of rejuvenating energy to have just made this tiny thing with colorful words that seemingly weren’t about anything of consequence at all, yet hinted at more if you squinted at it. 

I knew then that I should and would write one every day. So I tweeted it. I don’t have many followers or anything, but by publicly acknowledging it — and identifying it as a “daily” haiku — I thought it would keep me honest and committed to this new creative practice, however modest and small. 

And it has. For the last six months, I’ve written one every day, even when I was traveling or swamped with other obligations or utterly uninspired for even such a small task. 

The only two rules: 1) every haiku needs three lines (five syllables, then seven syllables, then five again) and 2) I’d write and share one every day. Looking back now, it seems that within those constraints, patterns emerged. Lots of allusions to nature (appropriate, since traditional haikus are meant to have a natural element in them). Lots of alliteration and internal rhyme and consonance. Lots of music references. 

I think I know where my unconscious mind got the idea to start this habit. It was from reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, the integral directive of which is to begin each day with three pages of free-writing, preferably by hand. I did my Morning Pages for a short while, but it didn’t stick. Nevertheless, I believe it’s beneficial, so I guess this small approximation of it was a compromise with myself.

There are some similarities between doing daily haikus and Morning Pages, but superficially they’re very different. Obviously the haikus are much shorter — three lines, not three pages, and always only 17 syllables total. Which means their form is strict and deliberate, as opposed to free-writing, which is about letting your unconscious mind run wild with (ideally) zero self-censorship or editing. Since I was tweeting each haiku and compiling them on my site, they were also public, whereas the Morning Pages are never meant to be shared.

But to me, they each ultimately share their most important aspect — their purpose. Each provides a way to draw from the deep, still well of the imagination, with no higher agenda to serve, no creative brief or client to answer to. Each is simply a chance to stir up the ideas in your head, a way to exercise the creative, expressive part of your brain.

What have I learned from writing haikus every day? Nothing, really. And that’s OK. Some come easily, some don’t, but it always brings me pleasure to complete one. Even if the benefits aren’t quantifiable (or even discernible) I still believe that it’s a good creative exercise. It’s more of a feeling. And if something is good for you, creating incentives to commit to it is a good idea, whether it be writing, drawing, exercising, eating right, nurturing relationships, reading, meditating, learning, or whatever.

So sure, I haven’t learned anything from writing these per se, but I’ve strengthened my discipline (a personal weakness). 

But why think of such matters in a utilitarian way? There’s more to life than making things that are purely useful, beating efficiency quotas, doing things only for money, or even making only things intended to last.

Today, there are now 180 or so random little micropoems in the world that never existed before. Knowing they’re there makes me happy.

I’ll suppose I’ll keep it up for another six months.

Anyway, here are ten I like a lot so far (the full list is here).

 

Faux baroque hall.
Telecasters, lights and smoke.
Harmonies crisscross.

 

The rover crunches
dusty Martian rocks and rolls
while we scroll and sleep.

 

Melatonin dreams.
Five milligrams of shrew moles
digging up neurons.

 

There is mercy in
David Attenborough’s voice,
but none on the screen.

 

A playground’s laughter
flings around the corner wall.
Far futures echo.

 

Wobbegongs sweep sand
along ancient floors as we
sleep ten skies away.

 

A gumball machine
clicks through its monastic life,
seeding tiny joys.

 

Still dracaenas sip
sunlight straight from autumn’s air.
Lithium snifters.

 

Terrycloth towel
wrapped around you. Nothing else
attaches like thoughts.

 

Shoeboxed photos smell
like secret childhood hideouts.
Blackberry bushes.

 

 

Posted on April 11, 2018.