#WomenWriters / Archives / Christina Lydia / Events & Articles On Literature / Pt. 7

“Taking Flight” | Signature’s ‘The Writer’s Guide to Poetry’ #OnWriting

This week, in celebration of Poetry Month, I’ll be chatting about writing by reviewing snippets of Signature’s The Writer’s Guide to Poetry — A highly recommended read for any-level writer.

Signature-Writers-Guide-to-Poetry Cover | BL | Black Lion Journal | Black Lion | Signature's 'The Writer's Guide to Poetry' #OnWriting

Carry That Journal

Probably the most practical advice that I hear from many writers is to always have at hand something in which you can scribble (or type) ideas, whims, WIPs, or random thoughts that may turn into something inspiring or useful. I think this is a standard for any creative person, not just for writing, because creative people are always being creative!

Susan Wooldridge, author of poemcrazy, gives us this time-honored advice because it’s the best place to start. Wooldridge shows us that by writing down simple words or phrases, we are crafting ideas that may lead to a poem. (Keyword here is lead.)

“My journal helps me slow down to see, allows me to write my way through things, and provides shelter where I may coax forth poems free of scrutiny.” — Susan Wooldridge

Translating Aches

Tyler Knott Gregson, author of Wildly Into The Dark, best describes writing poetry as “finding the aches and letting them sing.” He tells us that we, as people, are seekers — and we seek to know what we don’t understand. He also reminds us that all of us are filled with aches; art is the translation of those aches — and poetry is the pairing of letters and aches into stories.

“I have no rituals other than this, I have no methods or tricks, no wise sage advice for how to bring forth and deliver the letters from an unseen place. I find the ache, and I listen, with all my heart, for what it means to me the most. I listen, and then do my best to let it sing.” –Tyler Knott Gregson

Writer’s Block?

“Taking Flight” | Signature’s ‘The Writer’s Guide to Poetry’ #OnWriting | BL | Black Lion Journal | Black Lion

Dorothea Lasky, author of Rome, tells us that there is no such thing as writer’s block. This is somewhat a view that I agree on. Lasky points out that the job of a poet (or a writer) is to write. And that writers should never write about something but always toward something. This I partially disagree on. But I’ll have my say at the end.

For Lasky, and many of us, writing is a form of exercise — very much like a physical workout. If we had to run a marathon, we wouldn’t just straight out start running a 5k. We would train first. Just like with writing, we must train everyday so that we’re ready whenever we need to be. Lasky shows us that there is no such thing as a bad poem; rather, our ideal readers are out there.

“You’ve got to have a little respect for poems if you want to be a poet. Otherwise they will leave you with the deepest and loneliest silence imaginable.” — Dorothea Lasky

Imposter, Where Art Thou?

Imposter syndrome is the intense feeling that somehow you will be “caught” as a fraud in all that you creatively do. This is related to the ideas that 1) you are not qualified enough to have your opinion stand up to those who are admired by many; 2) all of the rewards that you have achieved, all of the work that you have done to be at the level in which you feel success may be easily taken away, and your credibility diminished in an instant. These are worries that many writers and creative people alike have felt and/or still feel from time to time; and it doesn’t necessarily have to be felt only by those who consider themselves a success (like Neil Gaiman). Imposter syndrome can be felt by those who still hold to the idea that whatever they create is not legitimate enough to be considered whatever art they do ____ (fill in the blank). In this sense, even those who consider themselves amateurs (like myself) in a lot of creative endeavors feel that they have no right to say or do what they would like to do — because they’re amateurs (see the circularity there?). Let’s break that cycle by acknowledging that we’re all amateurs because we’re all creators; and, most importantly, we all have the right and the legitimacy to create art.


“Taking Flight” | Signature’s ‘The Writer’s Guide to Poetry’ #OnWriting | BL | Black Lion Journal | Black Lion

Iain Thomas, author of I Wrote This For You, shows us that as writers, we have the right to do what we please with language. I whole-heartedly agree. Thomas tells us that poetry belongs to the people who read it; and we can write and create about anything we want to because people have the power to name things; and it’s with our power to name things that things have power (“What’s in a name?”).

“Write what you want to write and keep writing it. Obey only the great internal compass you were given, it’s the only one like it, and it is the only thing that can take you to where you’re supposed to go.” — Iain Thomas

Your Writing Is Your Prerogative

I mentioned earlier that I didn’t agree with the advice of one author; that “writers should never write about something but always toward something.” And in the context of the author’s words — and her well-intentioned address of writers block — the author meant well. But it’s never sound advice to limit what a writer wants to write about — even if a writer feels a block about it.

“Trying to write a poem about something or have it mean something is toxic for writing poetry. For example, there may be a world issue that keeps you up at night (and certainly lately there have been many for all of us) and as a poet, it may seem like the right thing to do is to write a poem about it […] But the problem is, as soon as you try to write about the thing, the poem escapes you and you feel blocked. Suddenly words fail your emotions. But words and emotions have nothing to do with what’s blocking you. What’s blocking you is your concept of what a poem should be before it’s even had a chance of being. Give new poems a chance.” — Dorothea Lasky

Words and emotions have everything to do with the feeling of blocks, with the feeling of being overwhelmed, with the feeling of busyness. Yet, I do agree that there is no such thing as a block because the sensation of a block isn’t that you’re not giving a poem (or other creative pursuit) a chance — it’s that you’re giving it too much of a chance. You’re second-guessing your creative effort by overthinking. Overthinking leads to the sensation of a block because you’re overwhelming your thoughts — and suddenly, you have nothing to say! Think of it like when you have to speak publicly. Emotions are the number one reason why your mind goes blank and you forget what you are going to say. You’re overthinking, trying to rehearse last minute, allowing the fear of public humiliation to cripple you — this is the same vein that writer’s block is from. A concept of what a poem should be has nothing to do with the sensation of a block. It’s second-guessing your creativity and the fear that what you create isn’t right or good enough that prevents you from trying or continuing (re-read the note on Imposter Syndrome above).

The cure to writer’s block is to switch subjects and to write about something else. Or to pursue other creative outlets. Susan Wooldgridge said it best when she told us that we all must keep our journal. What that means is that we all must continuously practice our craft; and we can do this in varying ways, not just through one medium. Most importantly, like what Iain Thomas said, we all have the right to write about anything we want to — even if what we write is about something, if it means something, or if it’s our response to something.


BL | Black Lion Journal | Black Lion | Christina Lydia
© 2017 | The Black Lion is a humble interdisciplinary journal that values your voice. Visit the submissions page to learn more about submitting to the Journal’s sections or to The Wire’s Dream Magazine. | Copyright Policy

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