Tag Archives: freeverse

Thursday Thoughts: Freeverse + Freewriting

9:57 a.m. — Walnut Creek

Hello, gang. We have a reader suggestion today, from Viv: a discussion of freewriting, to which I added free verse, as there are people who confuse the two.

First, let’s deal with free verse. It’s not free. What the people who coined the term meant was free of metre and end rhyme. Everything else that goes into writing a strong poem still comes into play and, because we have taken metre and end rhymes out, we have to be more conscious of where we break the lines and of internal rhyme. And, the poem still needs a rhythm that works. Hmmm. I’m beginning to think we should rename it. If you missed the post on free verse over at One Stop Poetry it’s well-worth visiting and reading. An excellent essay on free verse.

Freewriting is free of all constraints. It is a strategy that works for many people [not me…sigh] either as a kickstart or a restart. When I began my blog last year, I wrote about it. Here, updated, is what I said:

Almost any writer on writing will tell you: write write write do not stop write do not edit write do not stop write write write. The problem most of us have is that we have a self-censor sitting on one of our shoulders. This censor says That sounds silly. That’s not grammatical. What kind of syntax is that? Did you put a comma in there? Did you spell that long word correctly? What kind of image is that? It doesn’t make sense. Enough of that and you will talk yourself into not writing.

If your mind goes blank because you are trying so hard not to self-censor, or your mind just goes blank, don’t stop. Keep writing the last word you wrote over and over again. Your brain won’t like that and will kick back in. The surrealist writers believed that they had to reach a state beyond reality in order to find and write that which is true. What we call freewriting developed from them.

Ideally you want to write several pages without stopping. If you can do that you will find when you go back through that your mind and hand have taken you down many paths. You can choose one of the paths to follow knowingly, or choose words and phrases that speak to you and pull them out as a seed to a possible poem.

Rather than setting a time, I have found it easier to set yourself a number of pages. If you have never done this before, start with two pages and write. If it will help, pick a topic, but then don’t worry or panic if you notice that instead of writing about whales, you are writing about hot air balloons. Your brain made some kind of connection. Go with it. It may take you wondrous places.

Things not to worry about: grammar, spelling, sense, punctuation. That can all come later. Use what you are most comfortable with: computer, pen, pencil. Above all: if handwriting, do not stop the movement of your hand. Studies have found a direct correlation with the movement of the hand and creativity. Computer people, don’t panic. While the creative process works differently, these studies do not mean you have to change your modus operandi. When freewriting if you hit a stop point hit any key and keep it up until your brain starts again.

The object of freewriting is not to come up with a poem but to loosen the creative juices; if you get a poem from the process = bonus.

Remember: You need to write before you can write well. You need to have written something before you can worry about revision. You have to write before you can craft.

Let’s start with that and if you want me to address a specific aspect, ask. I can already see a couple of areas we can delve into further, but this post is long enough.

I will see you tomorrow for the week’s roundup of prompts; Tuesday for the next form; and next Thursday is open so far. If anyone has a suggestion, an idea they want me to discourse on, please let me know. Writing on reader generated topics has quickly become something I look forward to working on. Thank you, Viv, for this one.

Happy writing all.


Posted by on 14/07/2011 in poetry, writing


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Monday Mantra: Try It

10:11 am, Monday, 3 January, 2011 – Atlanta

Hello everyone. Are we all back? 2011 has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? As most of us have been in holiday mode for a couple of weeks I will ease back in and keep myself to one mantra.

In my first Monday Mantras, I stressed the need to read, WRITE, and don’t worry about getting it right. I am going to come back to that on a slightly different tack. I have, in several blogs, stressed the need to build your resources by collecting words, phrases, images, and lines. I would like to add ideas and, after a couple of months wandering poetry blogs, photographs.

We frighten ourselves with many things: blank pages, getting it just right, others reading our work, others liking, or not liking, our work, not being able to write. Our brains spend a lot of time trying to psych us out. We need to circumvent the roadblocks and one way to do that is to give ourselves permission to write wretched poetry, or prose, to write stuff to which our immediate reaction is: Oh, ick! When that happens, I write Ick! next to the offending piece and move on. Don’t throw it away or scribble it out [Next Monday that’s another mantra].

You have nothing to lose by trying, but it can be oddly difficult sometimes. By now, whether seasoned or new as a poet, I hope you all have your resource pool and that you keep adding to it. If you aren’t sure what to do next, I have three possible directions for you to go.

We all need ideas, a topic, or focus to write about. Some of us come up with ideas more easily than others. I’m one of the ones who needs to actively work at it. I collect clippings and articles from the newspaper and magazines. I jot stories that people tell. And, now, I take photographs and look at other people’s photographs for inspiration. Some of my favourite poems have been found in photographs. Another reason to take photographs is that when you write poetry for one of the many blogs that offer prompts, a photograph can add dimension to your poem [or the other way around]. If I don’t have my own photograph, but I find a perfect one, I write the photographer for permission and have never had anyone say no. My favourite is a rug shop owner. I found a rug I needed in his photos for his store.

Next, If you aren’t already engaged in posting poems in response to a prompt, start. It took me a while. I had to get my head around writing poems I want to keep for submission vs. wanting to post the poems I write for the prompts. I haven’t reached a clear decision yet, but I have started posting some of my poems. In fact, this month I am engaged in Fiona Robyn’s and Kaspa’s International Small Stone Writing Month. If you have not visited A River of Stones yet to check out the challenge, do. It’s fun and the site keeps a blogroll down the right side so you can check out the stones being contributed. I am keeping mine on another blog, if you are curious as to what I am doing: Random Stones.

Last, if you usually write freeverse, try form. If you stick to form, try freeverse. If you like to rhyme, write without endline rhyming; try for internal rhymes. If you avoid end rhymes [as I do], try some; your aim is to not sound like Dr. Seuss, or a Hallmark card…both dangers for people who are not used to rhymes. I wrote freeverse for years before I girded my loins to try a pantoum. I discovered I have a knack for them. You will never know what else you can do, if you don’t try. I find a pleasure in working an idea into a form. I find the restrictions and constrictions help me think. I focus better. I work even harder at making the poem work because there are rules. This year I have written my first rondeau, cascade, and sevenling. Not everything works with a form, but some things are enhanced by form. One of the best resources for forms is Robert Lee Brewer’s site Writer’s Digest: Poetic Asides. Look down the left side for poetic forms. You will find them all.

It’s a good thing I decided to stick to one mantra. Tomorrow a poetry exercise, Wednesday may be a status report, Thursday, finally, a discussion on The Poet is Never the Speaker, and Friday, a roundup.



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Posted by on 03/01/2011 in poetry, writing


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