How to Pull a Poem from the Sky (without the help of your inner critic)
How to Pull a Poem from the Sky (without the help of your inner critic):
- Take one big, beautiful breath, close your eyes, then smile. Ahhhhh….
- Reach your hand up to the sky. Tune in to the sensations in your palm. Imagine your hand swirling open while a river of inspiration begins to flow into your palm, down into your heart and out to your other hand. Allow this river to ripple throughout your whole body. Do this for about two whole minutes. You might feel a light tickle or current of energy in your hands–this is a good sign!
- Pick a topic for your poem—Are you writing about a loved one? A bus ride? A time your feelings got tossed like a salad? Pick the first thing that comes to you and write it on the top of your paper.
- Find a tree or some form of nature in your line of sight. Whether it’s a stalk of bamboo out your window or a succulent plant on a bookshelf or a vase of wilting flowers on a table—it doesn’t matter. Just have it handy because you’re going to be talking to it.
- Ask for help and listen—Out loud or in your heart, ask the tree/piece of nature for support: “Oh, dear tree, please inspire me with words to write…” (This is to remind you that you are engaged in a collaborative effort with your muse. In fact, you’re really not doing the writing, you’re only the vessel pulling words from the sky.) Write down the first words that come to you while looking at your nature friend. This is the start of your poem.
- Put your inner critic* down for a nap. (*that bossy, doubting voice in your head that insists you must be 100% perfect in all your endeavors). By now, this voice may have told you that writing a poem is dumb and you should do something more valuable like clean your bathtub drain. Instead of believing the inner critic, imagine taking him or her by the hand to the napping room. Tuck this noisy baby in bed nice and snug. Be sure to close the door and listen for the click of the knob. Now, bring your awareness back to your desk and get writing. If your critic pops out again (as often happens), simply bundle it back in bed with a kiss. The inner critic is really only trying to protect you from failing or feeling embarrassed. But, trusting this unhelpful, critical voice has the unfortunate effect of blocking your creativity. Don’t believe its hype!
- Give yourself permission to write a bad poem… Now that your critic is napping, you can forget about writing a “great” poem. In fact, it sometimes helps to let yourself write a horrible poem. This takes the pressure off and lets words flow freely. If you get stuck, put your hand up to the sky again and open your palm to pull down inspiration.
- Keep writing, accept the mess, no edits yet. Let your pen flow for 10 minutes. Allow yourself to enjoy the whole process. If your eyebrows begin to furrow (a sign the inner critic has escaped the napping room), simply stop, breathe and smile. Don’t give up. I’m here to tell you that I’ve started so many poems that are cliché or make no sense, and yet, when I stick with it, something deeper arises. Keep at it and I promise you’ll find a delightful surprise.
- Shape your poem. Your poem may come barreling out in one shot with few or no edits required. Or, perhaps you’ve got snippets here and there. Either way, all is good. From your draft, you might try mining for words or phrases that you like. Then rearrange however you desire into your final poem. (Tip: Click here to learn how to add more flavor to your poems by borrowing words from a newspaper article or book page)
- Repeat and repeat—The more you practice, the easier it is to trust that a poem will come. It might sound bizarre, but a daily ritual of reaching to the sky to pull down a poem, asking a tree for help, tucking your inner critic to bed, and simply writing, writing, writing–is a sure way to grow your poet powers.
Now let’s begin pulling poems from the sky—there is an endless supply!
Allison Fragakis leads creative writing circles in Marin County, CA. She is sporadically found around town clacking out personalized poems on her typewriter and talking to trees for inspiration. Check out her upcoming workshops including Writing Circles for Women (the 2nd Friday of every month) and Writing with Horses Retreat, October 20, 2018.