What can we learn from writing poetry_ Momina Arif's Blog

What can we learn from writing poetry?

I have been writing poetry for a long time. I started when I was 12 and it seems I haven’t stopped. I was curious about this particular style of writing and at the time it felt like such an impossible thing to do. How a couple of lines could have such an enormous impact and the capacity for storytelling sometimes more so than actual novels. Once I got into writing poetry I realized what everyone’s talking about. Poetry is more powerful than any other kind of writing because brevity, imagery and music are being manipulated at the same time. It depends a lot more on the reader and their imagination but it takes from the poet the ability to use words in order to have that effect.

After years of writing poetry, a few publications and a lot of rejections I can say that poetry has taught me a whole lot.

You don’t get better as you get older

The assumption about writing is that you get better as you grow older and gain more experience. The first book you write might be great but the second and the third will always be better.  Reading poems I wrote from when I was 12 doesn’t make me think that. It makes me wonder all together if writing is so much about experience and craft as it is about enjoying it and valuing it.

See 12-year old me wasn’t writing so that people would read it. The whole premise of it for me was writing so I could put the angst to something useful. And that we all have been through. Growing up is hard and some of us decide to write how we feel and that makes all the difference. It might come as a surprise but poems I wrote back then give me shivers and they were not necessarily better but they were raw and a lot more interesting to read.

Writing for no readers

Some of the poems I still relate to which is weird and sometimes I can remember exactly how I was feeling when I was writing them. The reason why I think my writing was better back as compared to now, is because it wasn’t at all about how a reader would receive it. There were no readers. Another stark difference in my writing is how excited I used to be about the words, and not that I am not excited about the words anymore, but writing for me now is primarily creating something unique. Writing something I haven’t already written before.

Every time I have had to face a writer’s block it is because of doubt and the inability to write something without anticipating whether people would like reading it. And nothing gets in the way of writing like that. I’ve not had a whole lot of critics but I know that my readers are split into two categories. People who don’t get it but appreciate it and people who don’t get it but sometimes resonate with a particular line or even an entire poem. I am lucky to have both because I know that in either case, the poetry is not about aesthetics as much as it is about being relatable. The tricky part about being relatable is that you must never ever be relatable.

Relatable but not ordinary

I used to write 3-4 poems in a day. And not that they were all great. They were difficult for me to read even back then. But there was an excitement to it. Knowing that you had a way with words. Every line was an accomplishment and made me want to get better at it. There are many that I consider an influence on my writing but the one writer that adored and looked up to the most was Pete Wentz; the lyricist for Fall Out Boy and the author of Gray. His work is satirical and razor-sharp. Relatable but not ordinary. That’s what I wanted. I wanted to write stuff that people would relate to and at the same time, I wanted it to be something completely unheard of.

You don’t get ideas, they get you.

The best poems I’ve written were phrases and fragments that I wrote in my notes app and completely forgot about. Until one day I had another idea and knew exactly where this second line would go. The best poems were also written in one sitting. Almost as if I was writing from memory and it wasn’t coming to me at that time.

There are many ideas I lost because I thought I would remember to write them but I didn’t and they sure would’ve made a difference. Ideas are fleeting and writing poetry is all about making the most of them when they strike. I remember not writing a whole lot of ideas down because I decided instead to doubt them and not that you shouldn’t, but you can always doubt the quality of what you have written tomorrow. You need to write it down today in order to have something to go over tomorrow. The worst thing you can do is not start and not write terrible, angsty poetry because if you don’t you’ll never get to a point where you actually like reading what you have written. 

More about writing poetry here.

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