The Poet’s Toolbox: 10 Practice Tips

Did you know holidays are the perfect opportunity to flex your poetry practicing muscles? It's a great way to preserve the memories.

Find your release through imagery. Here are some writing tips to follow, in no particular order. Choose what works for you.


1. It’s okay to write a simple poem. You don’t have to aim for the stars every time. Sometimes it's better to sit on the ground and write the gritty thing.


2. Don’t think of the finished product. Concentrate on getting your thoughts out, even if it feels clumsy or completely all wrong. This is why first drafts are your friend; you can worry about making it heart-grabbing later on.


3. Write stream of consciousness, then play with adding line breaks. It might look more prose-y than poetic, and the secret tip is line breaks can sometimes make all the difference between prose and poem.


4. Rhyme or don’t rhyme. If it speaks and sounds like poetry to you, you’re on the “write” track. ;)


5. Take advantage of holiday opportunities. For instance, this is Thanksgiving, and what better time to make poetry than a day for giving thanks? If your family goes around the table naming things they are thankful for, or if you kept a gratitude journal this year, put those words into poetry.


6. If your poem feels like a wash, just say to yourself “it’s only practice.”


7. You get a million do-overs. You get as many do-overs as you need.


8. Stay true to the spirit of your poem even if the language seems counter-intuitive. Don’t brush off a word that pops in just because it doesn’t first “fit in.”


9. Be excited about your own creativity. If you think the poem you are writing is awesome, don’t stab your ego in the back. Ego isn’t always flamboyant. If you make it work for you instead of against you, it can be quite constructive.


10. Persevere. I have written several poems in a row that end up falling flat; it does not mean I should give up, and neither should you. I will tell you outright that it’s scary to wonder if the inspiration will return. But then I remind myself that if I do keep trying I will always have a much better chance of inspiration. So will you.


Bonus Tip: If you’re in a dry season of inspiration, whittle it down to baby steps. Take two minutes a day to write a few lines: be honest, whether dark or light, direct or abstract. Nonsense, venting, praying, lamenting, celebrating are all legitimate options; whatever you need to get down on paper.

One More: Read this article! This is one of my top recommendations for jump-starting the poetry fever. Bookmark it. Then try it!

Jamie Bagley