Greetings fellow poets!
Today I thought I’d start posting more poetry-related entries, other than my poems. I remember seeing this video posted on my Creative Writing club blog and how neat it was (and this lady was in my area: I know where that bookstore is!).
I invite you all to watch the video and do some of the exercises she talks about. They’re really helpful in getting you to write some poetry (I especially liked items #6 and #11). The prompts are designed so that you can use them to create an actual poem.
Usually I just write whatever comes off the top of my head and try to mold it into a poetry format, and then I go back and edit where I see fit, but I think it’s also crucial to kind of know what you’re actually going to write before you begin (this is why I can’t finish a novel, guys), so I definitely found this exercise refreshing.
I think I’ll be writing a poem using the exercise in this video, so look out for that! Other than that, I realized that I really miss being in a poetry workshop. In the 7th grade at a summer studies program in North Carolina, I participated in a Creative Writing class, and we had a poetry workshop that really gave me the boost I needed for writing. I remember being told, “Write with an element you’ve never used before,” and I couldn’t think of one. The girl next to me said: “Write as many sugar-related metaphors as you can!”
Needless to say, it turned about to be a very sweet poem.
Anyway, that one comment allowed me to explore different topics of writing, and to think outside the box (how does one not overdo it with dozens of candy metaphors sprinkled in?). I hold a firm belief that a key to becoming a better writer, regardless of your style, is to share your writing with other writers! I was surrounded by several nitpick-ish people, but others offered much needed constructive criticism that I inadvertently took to heart. (Meaning, I was on the surface kind of mad at all the people nitpicking my typos and therefore “refused” to listen to them, [me being the emotional middle schooler I was] but many components of their criticism has stuck with me for good).
That’s why workshops are amazing. They allow you to connect with likeminded people, to learn from better writers, and to offer your own criticisms on other people’s works as well. You’re developing and improving two strong writer elements whilst participating in a workshop: taking criticism and offering it.
It’s important to be able to do both.
1.) Taking Criticism
We all hate the word; it’s got such a negative connotation attached to it, but when we add that important adjective “constructive” before it, there becomes a change in perception. It doesn’t indicate attacking, but helping. You’ve got to know how to take that constructive criticism with open arms and apply it to your writing. I’m not saying blindly use everything someone is saying, but to have an open mind and see where they’re coming from is important–they didn’t write the poem after all, you did. Sometimes as writers it’s hard to step back and read our work from a different perspective, because we know what we wrote and we don’t think we’ve missed anything, but as they always say: “use an extra set of eyes.” (OK I didn’t quote that verbatim, but you get the gist).
I recommend not only reaching out to a close friend who writes (because they see things as a writer would, which is kind of important), but to turn to other writers you don’t know very well. You get the best of both worlds and give yourself a better chance of learning things one or the other might not mention. You can also connect with writers at workshops and befriend them! They can be some really awesome people.
2.) Offering Criticism
It’s equally important to know how to offer criticism. I mean, you’re at a workshop, it’s everyone’s job to reciprocate one another in order to add to the dynamics of what the writer needs to work on. More importantly, it develops your knowledge of all the different writing elements so not only can you offer criticism on someone’s else work, but you can more effectively offer criticism on your own work. By understanding the position of reading somebody else’s work, you can take that perspective and use it on your own work when you’re proofreading/venturing through the scary stages of editing. Pretend you’re a different person when you read your own work–that is to say, remember what you did when you were proofreading a fellow writer’s work and apply it. Hopefully, I make sense when I say this, but if you guys don’t fully understand, just ask in the comments.
So that’s what I’ve really appreciated learning from the workshop I participated in. Have any of you been in a workshop before? What did you learn?
I was thinking of creating my own poetry workshop. We can use Google Docs and select one poem/prose we feel we want to work on, and allow the other participants to write their thoughts. Would any of you be interested in doing something like that? Maybe one weekend?
If you used the exercise in the video above, post your poem to the comments!