A few days ago, I was organizing my published and unpublished poetry. I read as I went and reading over some of the unpublished pieces I wrote last year got me thinking.
My unpublished poetry from last year was not bad. It was the best I could do at the time and I put my all into it. It had promise and emotion; it just was not focused enough. Reading it now, I know why it was rejected. That means I have learned a lot to be proud of this year.
Many of you all have asked how I learned to write the way I do. I also know many of you are poets or aspiring poets and writers and, while I am by no length a professional, I want to share some of the things that have helped me come to where I am now. I love nothing better than sharing advice.
I learned to write because I wrote.
I have been writing since before I knew what letters were. I was nine years old when I wrote my first book; it took five two-hundred-page notebooks. I wrote over one thousand pages of a Tolkien-inspired fan fiction story in multi-colored inks that have faded to date. I wrote without paragraphs and with very little appreciation for punctuation. But I wrote and my mother encouraged me by reading my creation out loud to my four younger siblings and me.
Nine years later I have written something, be it one paragraph or a word, every day of my life. I have learned of punctuation and of paragraphs. I have learned to show, not tell. I have learned to put feeling into my words. I have learned to take what is in my head and bring it gloriously to life in ink.
I learned how to do these things not only by writing but also by sharing. I shared my novel writing on Wattpad, Fictionpress, and FanFiction. I glowered at critique and negative reviews but instead of holding onto resentment, I acknowledged I have a lot to learn. I learned by studying the techniques of good writers and putting them to use in practice.
Good writers to me are not the ‘big writers’. There are not many classic books or bestsellers I care for. Good writers exist in the random books I read; in small fictions and gutting mysteries I find good writing. I find good writing in memoirs and magazines. Good writing to me is writing I read twice and love each time. Good writing is writing I remember.
Poetry is something I have only recently begun to write. While it is true many of the techniques I learned writing fiction influence the way I form images and attempt to capture feelings, poetry is a free medium. Lines can be anywhere you like. You can use slashes and colons to your heart’s content. You can do anything in a poem as long as it has a point.
No one can teach you how to write, but there are practices that will help you write better. It takes practice to write well and even then, you will write badly. Writing is not something you can learn and then be done with. You have to constantly learn. Laugh over your failures, smile over your successes, and keep aspiring to new heights.
What works for me may not work for you so adjust the following advice accordingly!
- Write for yourself. Write first for you. Write about what makes you smile and what makes you sing. Write about the things you cry about and the things you love about your life and home. What you write cannot help but be written in your voice. Write what you believe in and you will write strongly; your readers will sense that your words shine.
- Learn. Take everything you read as a learning opportunity. When you come across a piece of writing you love, take a minute to notice the voice of a poem or short story, novel or even blog post (this is not something you need to invest hours into doing; just do it with whatever you happen to be reading at the time). The voice of the writing is the voice of its writer, so it is impossible to copy, but notice the writer’s use of punctuation and words. Read poetry in books and on blogs. Find the poets who write in ways you admire and notice how they use words to form their images and feelings. Try to write a piece using the techniques you observed while the things you noticed are fresh in your mind. Most likely you will come away with a few good lines that are full of you.
- Tell a story. In words, in feelings, but your poem wants to have a point. People read to learn something new, enjoy a good tale, or find something to connect with. Whether in three lines or a dozen, tell a story, be it a personal anecdote or fictional tale.
- Refine. Write down your story or feelings! Let the words pour out as they come. Once the poem is done, read it over and change it as needed. Most often what I write in my notebooks changes by the time I post it or submit it for publication. Do not be afraid to rearrange or cross out lines. Start over fresh if you have to, but refine your story and progression of images and feelings until you can ‘see’ the story in your mind. My trick to editing is to not be attached to every word I write so file away good lines for future poems. Nothing is ever wasted in ink.
Here are some of the poets whom I first learned from. Due to their use of imagery, style, emotion, and subject matter, I still learn from among these writers.
- Megha Sood
- Gabriela Maria Milton
- Kristiana Reed
- Robert Okaji
- Christine E. Ray
- Candice Louisa
- Sammi Cox
- Susi Bocks
Naturally, you may not write with publication in mind. However, it can be a lot of fun and a wonderful learning experience to try your hand at submitting to online poetry journals. You will most likely gain helpful feedback from a community that is beyond your blog readers. I first shared my work and still share my work at
The list above is by no means complete. Connect with new writers and poets and find new places to share your writing. Remember that words are endless, and learning goes on forever.
As I have said, writing is a constant learning process. For me, it is part of my lifestyle.
May the words flow!
What tips and advice have helped you along in your writing journey? Tell me below!
Photo by Michel Catalisano on Unsplash
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