It all started out of boredom.
There I was, staring out the window, sitting on my lumpy sack of a couch, wondering what the fuck I was doing with my life. I had just quit my job, filling orders for skateboard shops across Canada from a warehouse in Richmond, my boss a pathological liar with no internal clock and a raging coke addiction had shown up three hours late for shift and I’d had to sit outside in the rain waiting for him to show. When he did, he just grinned, sniffed and said his alarm didn’t go off. I quit on the spot. There I was, just smoked the last cigarette of my pack, feeling dizzy and nauseous, and remembering being able to sit and smoke in my old apartment back in Wells. The neighbors always said they knew when I was home because it looked like there was a small fire escaping out the bottom of the door. There I was, realising despite years of posturing, that I had written a collective three poems that I was proud to show publicly. Three. Two of which had gotten me no higher than a 6 at the local poetry slam, my ego so bruised I hadn’t gone back in two years. Three poems in two years does not a poet make.
There I was, when I had an idea.
Back when I was studying at UVic, I used to read this comic all the time, The Magic Teeth Dailies. The artist had set a challenge for himself that he would draw a single panel comic every day for the rest of his life, the collections becoming what I read. Now, that was insanity to me, but wanting to rip him off to an extent, I decided I would write a poem a day for a year.
That’s how it started. That stupidly.
Now at that point I was cooking, but I felt like it wasn’t enough. I knew myself, I knew I was a lazy shit. I knew if I kept this challenge to myself I would never accomplish it. I would find some excuse to miss a day then that would turn into two days and snowball to the point where I stopped doing it. So, I did what any other enterprising egotist does with a hairbrained idea and no budget. I put it on the internet.
I announced that I, James Avramenko, that asshole you’d been actively avoiding since graduation would write a poem a day for 365 days. The reception was lukewarm at best. A smattering of likes on the status and then radio silence. Really, what could I expect? First lesson of creating art is: No one gives a shit if you do it or not.
But I had put it out there and now had to face the very real possibility of two outcomes. Either succeed and have no one notice, or fail and risk never hearing the end of it.
I got to it.
The first hundred or so are barely mentionable. I was merely going through the motions of posting something every day. They’re tentative skeletons that demonstrate no craft or potential. But as the days went on, and the anxiety of essentially practicing in public waned, I started to see a marked shift in the writing. Every day, I got a little better.
What helped keep my spirits up was that in the process of getting through that first hundred, I blew my life up. I finally broke up with my longtime girlfriend (a long overdue event), got a new job shilling cell phones to suckers and moved back into a house of old friends. Of course, I was a mess. I was drinking a bottle of wine a day at a minimum come hell or double shift. My Plenty of Fish profile, that I had been strong armed into making, had a headline that read “Depressed Poet Seeks Barren Smoker” There was little interest generated. But all this spilled over into loosening up my poetry.
I’m not saying artists have to suffer, far from it in fact. Artists need stability if anything. But what all this did was got me out of my comfort zone and forced me to write something honestly every day. Whether it was pleas to be taken back, which I’m eternally grateful did not work, or odes to vomiting, I was writing something that was distinctly mine every day.
And then the year ended. On that last day, I had a choice to make. Do I end it there and close the book? Or do I write Day 366?
Well, I figured I had yet to write something I thought my heroes would turn their heads at, so I decided I might as well keep going. I mean, I’m not planning on dying any time soon, might as well keep writing right?
So I did, I wrote another poem. And another. And as of today have written 1211 poems. That isn’t really meant as a brag, although I am proud of it. What it stands as, is a testament to how easy it is, if you have patience. I didn’t write them overnight and three years on I still have no following, no book deal and have yet to be paid for a single piece. But it makes me happy to do it. I enjoy it. And that’s all that matters to me for now.
So, who gives a shit? The thing I’ve realised in doing this project is that there really is no such thing as good or bad, great or terrible art. There’s art that has been made. That’s it. Anything else is an excuse. And no one gives a shit about excuses. My job as an artist is to create. Plain and simple. A teacher goes to school every day, an architect goes to a…building office every day, the police goes to the ghetto and beats a minority every day, why is being an artist any different? Inspiration has no interest in those who wait for it. It comes to those who make it. Waiting around to finally get a flash idea with never amount to anything more than a false start, at best. It’s the artist’s job to make something every day. Then the audience comes in and says whatever it is they’re going to say. Some people weep at Justin Beiber songs, some people turn their nose up to the Sistine Chapel, taste is all relative. It’s not my job to shape that, just to put something in front of strangers. You can do it too if you like. There’s never going to be too much art in this world.
So I’m going to keep writing poetry every day. You’re welcome to read it, to judge it, to talk about it or ignore it. That’s all good. I’m just keeping my side of the dialogue open, what you do with yours is up to you.
Find new poems every day right here at jamesavramenko.com, I’m always open to discuss anything you read here or elsewhere or anything at all really. I have lots of opinions and like sharing them
If you would like to witness the project in its infant horrors go to http://frontporchpress.blogspot.ca/
After the first 100 I moved to jamesavramenko.tumblr.com