I’ve always had a deep love for rhyming. Ask anyone I’m close to and they’d confirm that when I’m in the mood I can go off on rhyming tangents that last minutes, often packed with silliness. When I was really small I used to write poems or little limericks for my parents on their birthdays. As I grew older I privately tried my hand at song writing and eventually poetry, some of which featured in one of my first — and currently shelved — books, Darklight, which is a supernatural story I plan on revisiting some day. It’s tricky to explain in words, which is funny to say as an actual writer, but there’s a creative purity, or unique flow, to poetry that truly can help unlock any closed gates in your mind when searching for some consistency in your art.
While I usually try to address artists in general in many of my pieces, this one perhaps applies mostly to writers. Even then, poetry or limerick writing or song writing is not everyone’s cup of tea, and so this technique I’m sharing today may not even be of great use to you. But as you should know, trying new things can’t hurt you, unless what you’re trying is categorically dangerous and reckless. Fortunately I’m giving writing advice, and excluding those sorts of daredevils, adrenaline junkies and maniacs from my addressee list. Perhaps that would be for the best, then?
The way I see poetry, and it’s really subjective, is that it’s sort of like ‘painting with your mind’. If you’ve ever watched Christopher Nolan’s hit movie Inception, you’d get what I mean when I say that poetry or rhyming to me is close to pure creation as far as writing goes. This may be confusing because you could argue that any writing is pure creation, but with my writing it is highly structured, planned and not ever without purpose. I’m writing a story after all. I don’t just plonk myself down on my chair, and unleash words on a page and let the journey take me wherever it may. There’s a point the story needs to progress to, there are rules and boundaries within the story that I establish, a tone must be set, clarity must be ever present, characterisation must remain believable and of course I’m not writing in a flow of consciousness manner. There’s a specific method to the madness.
However when I write poetry or limericks or songs I tend to shut down those barriers and structures. It’s the opportunity for me to focus on pure creation and the flow of writing. Most of the time I will just write and let it go (cue the Frozen song here) without much of a plan or means of forward thinking. Despite there may being a story to tell within the poem or an objective, it’s largely unplanned, unstructured and most importantly doesn’t have to be perfectly coherent or straight forward. A poem can bask in ambiguity, it can focus on gouging emotions out of you or encourage your mind to project dream-like imagery. Poetry is a unique form of expression that fundamentally is not simple, or perhaps ‘direct’ is the better word. Of course it can be, but often you’ll find that it’s not. It’s a creative pathway to some message or emotion or thought, being spoken freely.
I understand that writing is different for everyone, and some people may very well write highly structured and planned forms of poetry. There’s very little room for being wrong in artistic expression. If this is the case for you, I’d encourage leaving your comfort zone and attempting to write in an unstructured, unplanned and perhaps a stream of consciousness style, simply to enjoy the freedom of expression. It’s a powerful way of helping your creativity flow. When I write poetry or songs or limericks I find that my mind just feels ‘unlocked’, in the sense that ideas and thoughts and feelings come more easily with greater clarity, without much brain-strain.
Perhaps you’re still confused as to how poetry improves creative flow, and if you are then excuse my tangent. I read an article recently about how to inspire creative thinking, particularly in children, and it was little surprise to me that poetry was given a mention. According to the article brain researchers have emphasised that it is vitally important to wire in (or promote) neural pathways in the mind through variety and richness of language interactions. In other words, don’t just speak baby language to your kids, folks. Kids have to use their brains or risk losing it. It’s naturally not that extreme, but the first years of life are critically important for brain development. Poetry can be used to encourage children to problem solve, wonder and ask questions. An example is given in the article.
That was just an interesting diversion, and I assure you that all hope is not lost if you haven’t been made to be creatively inclined since you were old enough to walk. While I loved my rhyming I only started writing seriously and developed a passion for it when I was eleven years old. A skill and passion can both be developed with practice and exposure, and one of the best ways to encourage yourself to develop and push yourself is to step outside of your comfort zone and do something different or new, because it’s a fresh challenge and forces your mind to approach the task in a different way, thus unlocking new pathways of thoughts and expressions.
Ultimately creativity comes in many shapes or forms, and whether you’re writing or painting or composing it’s vital to unlock that creative flow via many different means and inspirations. Poetry is but one approach to that end, and potentially a very healthy one for writers because it’s more a flow of consciousness, thought or feeling than anything of rigid structure. More importantly it’s also a unique approach to language and using it, and if you’ve ever studied or read Shakespeare, whether recreationally or through formal education, you’d know exactly how more poetic styles of writing can make you think or feel differently, and challenge your creative mind.
Give it a shot, I say, and discover whether poetry has anything to offer you. Or conversely should I say whether you have anything to offer it?