I guess one could approach writing a poem from one of two directions, have an idea you simply must explore or, face a blank page and scramble frantically for something to write about. Obviously, one would prefer the first but, given the second, there are ways to overcome what many call “the blank page syndrome.”
I have always found that simply by giving myself a writing task, one that is neither complicated nor extreme but something, simple that will immediately conjure up a picture in my mind, words find their way to the blank page. Once, teaching a grade school class, I could see a kind of dazed look in my students’ eyes when I suggested we would be writing poetry. “About what?” “I don’t know how to write poetry!” “I can’t think of anything to write about.” And on and on went the exclamations of disbelief and dismay.
And so, I gave them the following assignment: Write a poem about the color blue for someone who has never seen it. Tell us what it looks like, feels like, tastes like, smells like, sounds like and then, tell us how it makes you feel. I encouraged them to use imagery, metaphor, and simile, and to “fiddle” around with words that perhaps, sounded like the color blue – soft words, silky words, or, if one saw blue as loud and hard, then loud, hard words. And then, I turned off the light and had them picture the color blue in their minds – all the times they had seen it – rivers, lakes, and oceans – skies and robin’s eggs – every blue they could remember and then, I turned on the light and said, “Write!”
And they did! They wrote wonderfully descriptive poems that were filled with metaphors and similes, that brought the color blue to life in a way that was new for all of us. Some of the images were: “Blue is the color of wonders.” As blue as my heart when my puppy got lost.” Bluer than the sky on a summer day.” The blue of rivers scrambling over rocks.” Blue touches my heart with the sweetness of blueberries.” Blue is the magic of the deepest sea.” Blue rumbles like thunder through a stormy sky.”
Out of that simple assignment came well-written, thoughtful poems that moved all of us to feel something, learn something, become engaged with a new way of looking at the color blue. So, next time you are having difficulty getting those words on paper, give yourself a simple assignment. Choose a color, any color, and describe it using your five senses and then, how it makes you feel, emotionally. Suddenly (and happily) you will discover, you’re writing…