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How to Become a Better Poet

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The mention of poetry in a college class tends to strike fear into the heart of anyone who’s not an English major.  But poetry isn’t as scary as it often seems.  Poems don’t have to be fancy or complicated, and they are a wonderful way to express yourself.  Many forms of artistic expression require learning new skills.  Poetry doesn’t; all you need to get started are the words and ideas you already know.

To write poetry successfully, you must first learn how to be a poet.  In other words, you must develop the habits of a poet.  There are two habits that successful poets constantly keep in mind.  The great news is that you can start practicing them today.

The first essential habit for poets is reading.  A poet’s main tools are words and ideas.  More importantly, the poet specializes in arranging these words and ideas in a meaningful way.  Reading helps in two ways: it teaches you how to use the tools (words and ideas) you already have, and it introduces you to new ones.  If you want to write poems but you don’t know where to start, just read everything you can find.  The material you read doesn’t need to be academic or literary.  You can read news sources, popular magazines, your favorite fiction series, or even comics.  Whatever you’re passionate about, read it more often.  Once you’ve got that down, try reading something you don’t know much about; that will help broaden your understanding of the world.  In addition, read other poets; that will deepen your ideas about how to make your poems effective and meaningful.

Understanding the world is very important for poets.  That’s why the other habit any aspiring poet must have is thinking.  This doesn’t mean that you must know all the answers to everything.  Instead, it means that you must learn as much as you can and spend time figuring out what this new information means to you.  Thinking is easier for some people than for others.  It comes naturally to certain personality types, and for others, spending time inside their own minds can be a real struggle.  Our modern world of distractions such as the Internet makes it hard to find time to think.  Many individuals actively avoid deep thought because it makes them feel uncomfortable or uneasy.  But if you want to be a poet, it is essential to figure out how you feel about yourself and everything else in the universe.  So start thinking!  Think about what makes you mad, what makes you sad, what you love, hate, or want to change.  Think about what’s funny, fascinating, brilliant, or stupid. When you’re ready, you can start writing until you experience “writer’s block.”

To defeat writer’s block, there are some things you need to know.  The poet’s worst enemy is herself.  Even the most veteran writers are stricken with writer’s block.  The only difference is that writer’s block usually comes from insecurity.  Writer’s block cleverly disguises itself in many forms, but the reason the plague strikes in the first place almost always comes down to you not believing you can write something.  Writer’s block can be especially hard for poets to overcome, because they’re often trying to transfer their innermost thoughts onto the page, which is hard enough without writer’s block. The solution is to continue to write until you gain the confidence and courage to finish your poem.

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