I always used to just take on one challenge per month, but for September 2017, I was undecided about which challenge to take on. So I thought, why not do two? This was an experiment in itself, to see whether it worked. I felt that these two particular challenges were very different and would not affect each other, to any significant or limiting extent.
My challenges were to follow a vegan diet and lifestyle, where possible, and to write a poem every day.
I chose the vegan challenge because I belief in the ethics of being vegan but have always failed to fully commit to it, although I have been vegetarian for most of my life. I have had phases of following a vegan diet and lifestyle, but I wanted to establish it more permanently into my life.
I chose to write a poem every day because it was something I had been thinking about for a while – I wrote some poems as a child and a few more in recent years, and I liked the idea of writing more poetry and getting better at it, and I had the idea that maybe I could enter some poetry competitions.
These are the notes I wrote at the end of the month:
I was right in that the two challenges didn’t directly affect or limit each other. I would definitely do two challenges together in future months.
Vegan Challenge – I had a completely vegan diet most days, and when I didn’t it was mostly because I was uncertain of the ingredients in certain homemade dishes (for example), so they may have been vegan after all. A few times I had a vitamin tablet which was not vegan, because I felt I needed a supplement, but once I have used them up I would only buy vegan supplements in the future. Other times I didn’t eat vegan were when non-vegan meals were made for me, and when I went to my friend’s hen party and had previously stated vegetarian on the dietary requirements.
I did well at avoiding biscuits, cakes and other non-vegan snacks at home and at concerts. I haven’t had a huge number of opportunities to choose vegan options when out because I haven’t been out for many meals – but all the meals out I have had have been vegan, which I am pleased with.
Physically, my mood and energy levels have been quite down this month and I don’t know whether that is related to the vegan diet or not. Maybe it was detox symptoms, although I haven’t particularly eaten a healthier diet than before, apart from eating less biscuits and cakes than before. I have tried to supplement vitamin B12 with yeast flakes, and I had kombucha too. I had the vitamin tablets as mentioned earlier because I was concerned that I may have been deficient in some things, which may have been causing my tiredness / down mood.
I have also had dry skin on my wrists, and pimples around my chin, jaw and below my ears. This could be related to the change in diet, or detox symptoms, or it could just be coincidental.
I am going to continue with the vegan diet where possible this next month, and see if my mood / energy / skin improves. I’ll try and add more foods that contain B vitamins, and also include more oils for fat.
I thought that after a month of eating vegan food, non-vegan food would no longer seem appealing to me and may even seem off-putting, but this hasn’t happened yet. Certain non-vegan foods that I used to eat still appeal to me, but maybe that is because I have still had small amounts during the month.
I am proud that I mentioned my vegan trial to some of my friends, and they had a positive reaction which I am glad about. I’m grateful to have had some yummy foods this month and to have tried some foods that I wouldn’t normally order. I’m glad to have found that most places do cater for vegans, even places that serve predominately non-vegan foods.
In terms of lifestyle, I haven’t applied the challenge to products so much, because I plan to use up non-vegan products that I already own, and I don’t have much control over certain products, for example, soaps in my family bathroom at home, which my mum chooses, and soaps in other places too. Once my non-vegan products run out, I intend to replace them with vegan products. Where I own several different products of the same type, for example, hand cream and lip balm, I opted to use vegan ones this month, although I will still use up the others. The same goes for clothes – I rarely buy clothes / shoes that are made of leather, wool or other animal materials any more, but I have a few that I bought years ago or were given to me as gifts. At the moment, I am still wearing the ones that I already own, until they are worn out, and then I would replace them with vegan clothing. I have thought about giving the non-vegan clothes / shoes I own to charity or a clothes swap, and I may do this at some point.
Poetry Challenge – I did it, I wrote a poem every day! Some were a bit shaky and plain bad, and some days I was not in the mood and I wrote lazy / easy / short / silly ones, but that’s okay, I still did it, and it was all good practice for rhyming / creativity. Some days, particularly near the beginning, I spent lots of time on my poems, like 2-3 hours and I wrote a few good ones. This month went fast and it doesn’t feel as though I’ve written a poem every day, but I have!
Overall, my motivation lowered as the month went on, and I wouldn’t say that my poems improved – they probably got worse on average! But that’s probably because I got fed up of writing one every day, and ran out of ideas. My poetry skills have probably improved, and if I write the occasional poem in future, it will be better.
I’m not going to carry on writing a poem every day, but I think there’s a good chance I’ll write more in future, and maybe come back and re-work some of the ones I’ve done this month, perhaps for a competition. I know I can do it now, and I have lots of starter material to work with. I have also made a ‘rhyme dictionary’ where I write down lists of words that rhyme, and I have gradually expanded this throughout the month, which will also be useful for future poems.
Animals and nature provided a lot of inspiration for me, and birds featured in a lot of my poems! I also found that photos are good inspiration for poems, and so are real life events that happened to me, especially if they were unusual. For example, I wrote a poem about a hawk that landed on my window sill, and another poem about a kingfisher I saw. I also found that I could take a scene or an event and put a metaphorical meaning to it, or a moral, or a story. Or write as though it was from someone else’s point of view. There are many interesting ways to write poems!
The hardest part is finding something to write about, and getting started. I just have to write a line, and then I am off! I used a thesaurus a lot for synonyms, which I found useful, for finding more interesting and descriptive words, and to help with rhythm and rhyming.
I learned that non-rhyming poems work too, in fact, some of my best poems were non-rhyming. I found it gives me more freedom. I also liked writing in sonnet form though. I think I am quite good at getting the rhythm right in a poem, for example, iambic pentameter (the rhythm traditionally used in sonnets), and most of my poems had a rhythm. I was not so keen on the ones that I wrote totally freely, with irregular line lenghts. I wrote some limericks, as quick, lazy poems, but I don’t think they were my best style.
I thought that I might have trouble finding good titles for my poems, but I actually found that they were usually easy and obvious to come up with. The titles were often very simple and short, and not usually the first line of the poem.
I wrote a lot in the first person, but I tried to vary that a bit towards the end. I wrote a couple of my poems with help from a friend – that’s allowed! I wrote a few ‘political’ type poems, about things such as school and test tube babies. The poems were not totally what I think, I just wrote from certain viewpoints for the poem, and I wasn’t that keen on them because they didn’t really get across my true views properly.
Since doing these challenges, I haven’t written a single poem! But who knows, maybe I will in the future! I also haven’t become a fully fledged vegan, but I am much closer than I used to be. I rarely eat dairy products or eggs, especially at home, and I have recently discovered some great vegan alternatives to non-vegan products, especially vegan cheese! I’m a big fan of vegan cheese because it’s such a satisfying food to eat, but without the guilt and disgust I feel at eating dairy cheese.
I usually choose vegan options from the menu when eating out, and I have discovered some great local vegan cafes and restaurants which I often visit. I did another vegan challenge in September 2018, which you can read about here: September 2018 Challenge and here: Evaluation – September 2018 Challenge.