Want to write better poems? Why not try a different technique to become a better poet? Stop trying to write better poems.
Because most good poetry comes from a place deep in the subconscious, judging your poems as you’re writing them can be problematic. If you’re worried that your poetry isn’t strong, that your metaphors are wobbly, that no one will be interested in your subject matter, then you’re clipping your poem’s wings at the same time that you’re asking it to take flight.
Here is one way of writing that works for some poets. Feel free to expand and alter this as you please to suit your own writing needs!
1. To write better poems, turn off the part of your brain that is conscious of what other readers might think of your poetry. Let your subconscious do the writing. Don’t go chasing after the words you want to write; instead, follow the words as they come from within you. Don’t censor, second-guess, or hesitate. Just open your mind so that it can make connections that you might not consciously see.
One way of “turning off your inner critic” is to set an intention before you sit down to write. Take a few deep breaths and gently tell yourself that you’re open to whatever it is that your mind is about to do. Consciously allow your subconscious to take over. Intend to follow where the muse leads—even if what you end up with is messy, garbled, clumsy, and unfocused. Embrace that lack of control as part of the process.
2. After you’ve done the brainstorming portion of your poem-writing, put it all down for a while. Don’t rush yourself into creating a masterpiece. Like good food, good writing takes time. When your poem sits quietly for a while, the various flavors of it will mingle and recombine in new ways. You open your poem up to new levels when you leave it alone for a while.
(However, if you’re worried that you’ll lose the “fire” behind your poem, start the revisions right away. You can always put down the revised poem for a while and come back to it later on.)
3. Finally, after you’ve taken the time you need to get a little perspective on your own writing, go back to your poem with your “editing hat” on. Because the creative act is generative and the act of editing is critical, it can help to break those two processes apart and tackle them one at a time. Edit carefully and without judging your own creativity. When critiquing your own writing, always strive to be the generous and sensitive editor that you would be for someone else.
Sometimes writing better poems isn’t a matter of learning more technique or doing more thinking. It’s a matter of NOT thinking. Dig deep to let your subconscious do some writing, and your poetry will grow.
Writer’s Relief helps poets place their poems in literary magazines and journals. For more information on how Writer’s Relief can help you, visit www.WritersRelief.com.
QUESTION: What’s your strategy for bridging the gap between following your muse and editing?