I wrote a post about the poetry that inspires me, but I’ve also have written much of my own over time and taken a handful of workshop classes during college. I’ve always kept series of blank notebooks with unlined pages that can leave my mental workings almost torn asunder by the possibilities for filling all that empty space. I’ve had significant dry spells in my life where what I wrote was subpar at best. But one of the things I learned in one of my most enjoyable classes was it is best to not just write when the mood strikes but to write, write, write in regular practice. We kept a journal and noted something we saw every single day. What that allows you to do is to start bringing new perspectives to the mundane little happenings we are all part of – the poetry in every cup of coffee and forlorn stranger. I’ve often heard the 90/10 “iceberg” rule applied to productive writing. Supposedly the portion of an iceberg visible above the ocean surface represents only 10% of the entire mass of the thing, with 90% of it seated below the surface. Writing often is structured by 90% of what isn’t said – the work, or discarded writing that has gone into producing the final product.
I’ve always benefited however from trying new things, new styles, new concepts, etc. There are some really thought provoking poetry books and exercises out there that have inspired some of my strongest writing and keep me creatively fresh.
I highly reccomend the book “The Practice of Poetry: Writing Exercises from Poets Who Teach”. You generally can find a used copy on half.com for $4-5. There are also some great websites with poetry exercises, my favorite so far being the writing exercises listed on the Poetry Resource Page website. Some example exercises:
Choose one object in your room and make a list of all of the ways you could use it, or all of the things you could do with it. For example, a glass can be used to drink from, to pour from, to collect rain water, to turn upside town and catch a fly under, etc. Turn your list of functions into a lyric poem, using the object as the title.
(by Jack Myers, from The Practice of Poetry, Robin Behn and Chase Twichell, eds.)
Write a poem to God. Make it a tirade, a complaint, a request.
Write a poem as God. Let God explain, refute, deny, defend.
Write a poem in which God is a traffic cop, a new anchor, a porn star, a grocery clerk.
The point I think, it to keep re-working how you approach writing, to step outside the way you “know” how to write and to do it differently. Wonderful things can be found littered about the messes…