So you wanna be a poet, but then you realized that you have no idea how to actually start writing poetry. It sounded like a great idea to be a poet when writing poems was easy, when inspiration just struck and the poem wrote itself. All you had to do was hold the pen or type on the keys.
But unfortunately, that’s not a great long-term solution. It’s a trap that many poets fall into, myself included. I loved when inspiration struck me, even at the most random times, and handed me the perfect poem on a silver platter.
But eventually, the natural inspiration that we tend to think of runs out. You still want to write, but you can’t find the poem inside you anymore. This is when you need to find other modes of inspiration. Understand that inspiration is like a relationship; it needs to be nurtured.
You wrote all these great poems in the beginning because you were still in the honeymoon phase. Things were easy, you didn’t have to work very hard. But as time goes on, you have to learn new ways to keep the relationship alive and ensure the spark doesn’t go out. And as anyone who’s been in a long-term relationship will tell you, it takes a lot of work. However, if you put more work into it, it will be so rewarding for you.
One of the first things you can do to foster your relationship between poetry and inspiration is by moving around. Some research has shown that just taking a quick walk around the block can help get your creative juices flowing.
Plus, nature is always a great inspiration for poetry. You could try going for a walk in a forest or at a nearby park with some local wildlife. You may find something that sparks the inspiration that you needed to write the next great poem.
Personally, I love going swimming. While I swim in a lap pool, it’s the perfect way to get moving and calm my brain down. All of the distractions disappear, and all I can hear is the water in my ear and see the black line at the bottom of the pool. When all of the busy distractions disappear, I find that I can focus on my thoughts and follow the thread of them to the next great poem. The only problem is remembering it long enough to write it down when I finish my swim.
However, I know a lot of other great poets get their ideas while playing a sport, working out at the gym, going for a run, or doing anything that connects them with nature or movement.
Read as Much Poetry as Possible
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
And the same is true for poetry. How can you know how to write great poetry if you don’t read the latest poems from some of the greatest poets?
I also love reading poetry because when I read poets whose work I admire, I oftentimes get inspiration from some of their poems. However, I don’t mean that you should plagiarize or steal their ideas or works. But many poems are often inspired by the work of other poets.
And if you are inspired enough by a poet’s work, you should make sure that you give them the proper credit. Many famous poets do this, and it can be a nice homage to the poet’s work.
Free Write or Journal
If I still am not feeling inspired by anything, I will try free writing or journaling. I prefer to write with a pen in my journal because it helps me slow down and work through my thoughts. But oftentimes, when I’m writing I notice that I’m working through all the jumbled thoughts in my head. At this point, I can then think clearly and make connections with my thoughts and observations and write a great poem.
For example, I was recently journaling about how I was struggling to write poems now that I’m in a different stage of life. While writing about my feelings and thoughts on it, I found myself wandering back to why I was writing poems in the first place. Then, I found the inspiration to write this poem!
I’ll be the first one to admit that prompts don’t always work for me. When I was an early poet, I used them to try and write even more poems, but it never felt natural to me. I didn’t like the feeling of forcing inspiration because I felt as if no good poems ever came from it.
However, now that I’m more experienced, I understand that prompts do have their time and place. My best advice for using prompts is to go into it using them as a tool to get to your next great poem. Even if you use a prompt and don’t get your first great poem, you are one step closer to your next great poem. Sometimes you have to write a bad poem to access the great poem that’s right behind it.
This is one of the hardest ones for me to do. I know life catches up with you, and we all have bills to pay. Since poetry isn’t the best source of income, other things come as first priority.
However, one thing that I’ve realized which has helped me is knowing that doesn’t mean that I have to write a hit poem every single day. Even if you just write a line for a poem, you’re one step closer to having inspiration strike you more often. Since it’s a relationship, you have to give as much as you can.
You may not even use that one line in a poem, but it could help you later on. I also tend to keep all drafts of my poems, even if I don’t immediately love them. This way, I can scroll back through and see if I’m ready to write that particular poem yet.
For example, the last poem in my book “seven years” was inspired by an idea I had found. When I found it, I wasn’t able to write a great poem based on it, but three years later, I revised the idea, and now it’s my favorite poem.
Foster the Inspiration
One of my favorite books about inspiration is “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. This book takes a two-step approach to help you foster your inspiration and creativity. I tried it for a few weeks before I started grad school, and I did find that it was helpful. However, I think it would be most effective if you followed her strategy exactly as she intended.
Cameron says that artists should focus on two main things: writing morning pages and going on artist’s dates. Morning pages consist of free writing each morning to help you get all the complicated feelings out of your mind so that you can focus on inspiration and creativity. I wrote three pages each morning, and I did start to notice that gradually I was writing more.
While you write the morning pages each day, the artist dates are once a week. This is where you take time to go somewhere by yourself and focus on creativity. It could be something as simple as going to an art museum and taking in all the sights or going out shopping for a fancy new journal. It can be whatever you want, but Cameron outlines certain guidelines that will help you.
This book will also walk you through weeks of fostering creativity again, and it’s a great tool for overcoming writer’s block.
If you need more help with finding inspiration and crafting great poems, check out this Amazon list I put together filled with books that have helped me!
Disclosure: I am an Amazon Associate, and some of the links above are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.