Saturday, 28 February 2015

Does writing prose affect my poetry production?

Below are graphs showing how many poems, stories and Flash pieces I've written and had published since 1991.

I was curious about whether writing lots of Flash suppressed my poetry or story writing. Though a peak in the production of one type of writing often coincides with a trough on another graph, it as often coincides with another peak, so although there's a relationship it's not a simple one. I guess Flash and stories are most nearly the inverse of each other, which isn't such a surprise.

If one views the blue lines (how much I wrote) as quantity and the red lines (how much I published) as quality, I'd say I've not improved over the years. Nor has my quality control changed - the more I write, the more I get published, though my volume of output (which is never high) is patchy to say the least. Some years I produce no examples of a mode. Stories in particular don't come naturally - I have to commit myself to writing them; the temptations of Flash/Microfiction are too great. Increasingly my stories are episodic, a sequence of related flashes.

Or perhaps earnings should be the measure of quality. I hope not, but for completeness, here's the data.


  1. I have plenty of examples of micro/flash pieces which when line-endings are added, have become poems. And the converse. And off they go to respective markets, and no one knows the origin. :)

  2. I've done that too. Sometimes I don't even bother adding line-breaks. It depends on my mood and how the market's shaping up. My guess is that in the later 90s I favoured poetry over flash, in the mid 00s my flash tended to become stories, and more recently my flash has stayed flash (perhaps because it's more micro than flash).

  3. I wouldn’t know where to start with a graph like this mainly because I’ve never dated any of my writing other than the poems. I couldn’t tell you when, for example, I started the book I’m editing right now. I seem to remember it taking about four years to write with a two year gap in the middle during which I wrote a play, virtually all my short stories and a decent number of poems. It’s always a surprise to me when I write anything that’s not a poem. I was a poet and nothing but a poet for twenty years and I still think of myself as primarily a poet; the prose is just stuff I end up writing when I can’t think of a poem to write. I’m being half-facetious there. What I am is a writer and I choose whatever form seems most appropriate for the material. I usually know right away even if I only have a sentence or two. I recall crossing the Clyde when “Milligan and Murphy were brothers” came out of the blue and I knew—Christ knows how I knew—this was the opening line of a novel. Not sure I’ve even had a piece of prose turn into a poem although, as you’ve noticed, I’m not beyond hiding a few lines of my poetry in a novel if they fit. A while back I thought of reformatting all my poems as single paragraphs because, at the end of the day, there’s only writing. Calling something a poem can be off-putting if you think you’re not into poetry (or have had bad experiences) but I never did; I like that poetry has a shape that distinguishes it from prose.