Advice for Poets 5: Picking a Muse

The glorious thing about poetry is that, in theory, you could write about anything – even a bittersweet ode to that gallant little piece of gum that’s been sticking to your boot for a week and won’t come off. But if you’re just starting out, or even if you’re an experienced poet having an off-day, how do you choose what to write about? We’ve compiled some creative writing ideas that might point you the right way.

Photo by USMARINE0311 / CC BY NAME
Photo by USMARINE0311 / CC BY NAME

Take The Pressure Off

Firstly, understand that you don’t have to write a poem that will change the world. You could write about something small to start with, and in fact, that might be the best exercise for beginners. Work your way up to the big stuff later on. Think of a dozen ways to describe an apple before you try lobbying for world peace.

A Person

A traditional choice of person could be a loved one, or even someone you hate, or even a stranger. A good way to practice controlling language is to take a small feature of a person and expand it, or condense their whole character down into just a few lines.

An Object

Objects can be personified, or compared to grander things – so a bucket of water could be an ocean, or a football could be a globe. You could look for the ordinary things about grand objects, or expound on why ordinary objects are actually kind of awesome.

Expand a Tiny Moment

Think about how a single, tiny experience made you feel and then expand it out. Write about the journey of a rain drop from leaf to soil. This is about more than writing a poem, it’s about learning to see from every angle and say things in lots of different ways – again, a great skill to practice.

Photo by Philip Leara / CC BY NAME
Photo by Philip Leara / CC BY NAME

A Feeling/ Experience

This is probably the easiest one to think of, but maybe a very difficult one to write as a truly exhilarating experience can be hard to put into words. When faced with a situation like this, where a feeling is difficult to describe, jotting down a list of disassociated words or phrases may help you get started, rather than trying to form full sentences form the off.

Let the Sparks Happen

If you’re writing about one thing and the chain of thoughts leads on to something bigger, better, or more original, then don’t dismiss it because you’re already working on something. If you have the sort of brain that jumps between ideas it might be good practice to make a note of the new idea and then continue working on your original piece – but if you’re certain that the new idea is better, don’t be afraid to jump ship.

If you’ve been inspired, consider submitting some of your work for our charity poetry anthology. 

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