Monday, 14 January 2013

Writing Exercises? Keep the weight off and do it all in your head.

23:42:00 Posted by Shaun , 3 comments
You've probably heard some idiot tell you all about a room full of monkeys with typewriters composing Shakespeare at some point, right. Well, I assure you all that this is never going to happen. To write poetry, you have to read poetry- if only to have some kind of benchmark form... And teaching monkeys to read? They'd revolt.
Tonight then, I'm going to share with you my 'whole day not writing' approach to creating a poem. This is no work of genius I'll grant you but, it does seem to keep me with fallback poems for the DGPS events.

1. Wake up. Before you do yourself a mischief and turn on the TV, read a poem. This early morning kick for the brain may seem a little intense before the kettle has had a chance to brew but you've set the frame of mind at the very start of the day- something which will help when you get a chance to read/watch/hear the ever depressing and enraging morning news.

2. Have you seen the news? I don't believe there is a person out there without an axe to grind at the moment. If you're stuck for issues of ideas, pick your most lively topic. It might end up in the never again pile, it might spur you on to that long poem you've been promising yourself. DON'T PICK UP YOUR PEN YET. I know you think I'm mad but you've had that idea for all of what, half an hour. Mull it over a minute.

3. At about this stage of the day, with a rough idea of a theme in mind, I like to do some 'dum-de-dums'. Without patronising you, this literally means making one of those little ditty tunes up, comprising only of the dum-de-dums. After a minute or so, and I advise you do that bit in your head if you're in public, you'll have some kind of rhythm going on that feels natural to you. We're roughing it today, so keep that beat in your head, it will become your first line soon enough.

4. Now you've got some kind of beat going on, probably some words and key phrases and ideas are nipping up. Try to remember them but not write them straight away. The mind is a curious place and you'll be amazed what it throws back out to you in the butter churn of creativity. In the author's note to Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks quotes fellow writer James Fenton's advice to would be poets 'Put something in your poem that the reader doesn't know'. This will at least give you a vehicle for passing that information on, instantly adding some kind of depth to your audience.

5. Now you've had a think, let the brain do an edit. You have my permission to get the pen out. I want you to just fill a page with ideas- brainstorming if you will. Your rhymes are handy to note if using, as well as any particularly ringing phrases that have stuck. If you've lost your line, in the long run was it really that memorable? You will do this as well, you'll forget something good. Take it from me that it pays to have a scrap notebook in the bathroom somewhere, as well as one in the dash, coat, bag and kitchen. You've got a basis so keep adding to it throughout the morning- things will come to you, as well as rewrites of previous lines.

6. The internet is your friend. You've got so far but can't find a rhyme for melancholy? Don't throw in the towel, get it looked up on an online dictionary. And if you're savvy enough to read here, you can do better than hook and book. Whilst you're online (and avoiding facebook) research the theme you've chosen. You should at the very least be fact checking with wiki or the various news sites. In fact, at this very point last week my poem changed. I was online when I noticed John Prescott had started the hashtag #picklesbiscuits. Within moments I' come up with a few, some original and some repeats but that whole five minutes of laughing my ass off changed the afternoon significantly.

7. You've started building your poem now. This seems really brief doesn't it- you're forgetting that the brain has done two edits or so of everything you've managed to jot down for you already. I mentioned the intenet changing directions- I thought to search biscuit brands and as a result,  found a few that were either fitting or tweakable for my poem. I got about three lines out of this but closed my little stanza idea- it is really a repeat until fade process from here on in.

So there you have it. My fools guide to composing the works of William Shakespeare, monkey and idiot proof just as you'd like, and the whole thing falls around that simple notion of just being aware, reading what others have thought and mulling over in your head for a while what you'd like to add to that discourse.
At least you're on your way now...

This week's theme is Poetry or Writing Exercises. I look forward to seeing what secrets will be shared amongst our writers this week. Thanks for reading, and apologies for the late post, S.


Ashley R Lister said...

I genuinely going to take a shot at this one. I've put a large book of poetry on my bedside cabinet and I'll be reading one first thing tomorrow.

I'll come back here when I've got something written.


Cerridwen said...

I like this. I'm gonna give it a go too :)

vicky ellis said...

This is one of the clearest guides to the creative process I have read. Nice work Shaun.