A Writing Kick Start: Write With Others, Alone

<em>Going line for line with Frank Bidart</em> You know how it is when you haven't written for a while?

Sounds of creak creak coming from the creative well and whispers of Can I still do this rising from the doubting monkey mind.

On December 30, I wrote my first poem of 2009. In past years I've written almost daily and now I felt like a deer in headlights: Where to start?
I had to put on my coaching hat and do what I'd suggest others do to get back on the pony: Get on the back of another poem (you can do this for any other genre too.)


Here's how I got back on the Poetry Pony:
  • Went to Poetry Daily to get  a poem. Thankfully it was a poem by a poet I love, Frank Bidart.
  • Went to my local cafe and sat down with a printed out copy of the poem. I read it and then wrote to it line-by-line with this formula: I inverted every word and phrase of Bidart's poem.
  • Wrote to the end and then started to revise.
  • Did I feel incompetent and out of shape and frustrated? HELL NO. It felt damn good to sit there communing with poetry. If you were at the Madison Park Starbucks on Dec 30th, and saw a woman sitting by a window with tears in her eyes, well -- that was me.

Most of the time we're writing, it's the process that matters. We can pull in our critical selves when it's time to do the revising and editing and prep a piece for public viewing. Until then, what matters is the doing, discovering, playing. Lock the judge in her bedroom until you're ready for her. But back to kick starting yourself.

Use other writers and poems/paragraphs as scaffolding


Use other writers, their work -- or some of your previous work -- as support, a writing partner or scaffolding.

Write in between the lines of a poem: write your version of each image or phrase; write the opposite, (as I did in the above example); use the lines  simply as company so you don't have white space in front of you.

Or, write your version of the next line of that poem all the way through. When you're done, remove the original poem and see what you have. Even if it feels like it's going to be nonsensical, you'll be surprised.

If you're a prose writer, take a paragraph you love from an essay or novel and do your version of the same.
Even if you're spending time copying the work of a fave writer all you're doing is giving yourself a writing work out and learning from a pro. Consider it skill-building.


The point is usually to Just Write

And if it helps to write with someone else's poem or opening novel paragraph or brilliant essay passage, do it.

You don't have to do it alone, you know.
Have fun!