I’ve been writing for almost a decade. Throughout my love affair with composition, there has been pain, fears, doubts, joy, and a sense of purpose. But here’s a few things that I picked up along the way that I think can help you become the best writer that you can be.
Learn from your inspirations, but don’t copy.
That’s plagiarism and just plain laziness.
Bluntness aside, there’s no point in copying your heroes. Their story is not your story. You can always take certain elements and tastefully incorporate them. The main reason artists create is to to inspire other creatives to create. The people that you’re reaching out to need to hear your voice, not your impression of someone else.
Developing your own voice is really a matter of time, patience, and willingness to go with the flow. It took me roughly 10 years to finally settle on a writing style that best suites me. It might be different for you. Truth is, your voice is your most valuable asset that will set you apart from the crowd and help plant your mark as an artist. Make sure that it’s heard.
If you could read my poetry from when I first started to now, you would see the growth in quality. And it wasn’t that I just took a class or wrote more (although it helped). It was having more stories to tell. Emotions to express. And overall, just growing up and paying attention to how things work in the world.
Constant evolution is what inspires musicians to compose, writers to document, and artists to articulate visually. You’re not the same person you were yesterday, or even a few seconds ago. Yet as an introvert, I tend to spend most of my time focusing on the past and on what could have been. What if that relationship didn’t end? What if I had the courage to speak up in certain situations? What if some people stuck around and not abandon me? So on and so forth. While there’s nothing wrong with being reflective, there comes a point when you have to accept what happened, learn from it, and use it for a greater purpose.
I think the stereotype of the reclusive writer is counterproductive. You can’t talk about (or even influence) the world without participating in it. Social media has streamlined this process, receiving information through notification bars and email alerts. Life is always happening around you. Art is our response to it. Putting the human condition on display involves interacting with other humans. Learn their story. Share your story. Instead of always carrying a notepad, have an open heart and ears, willing to observe and absorb.
Know who you are.
Sort of similar to the first tip. Except this time, focus on your environment. What kind of person are you? How were your brought up?
Music is also a great place to draw inspiration from. Music and poetry have always been interconnected. So take some time and go through your playlist. See what you songs you tend to listen to and reflect on why you like to listen to them. There might be more connections than you’ll realize.
For example, I’m a shy, quiet kid that loves to listen to lyrical rap. As a result, it tends to blend into my poetry. The wordplay, wittiness, and attention to rhyming will show. I consider myself to be more of a lyricist than a songwriter. That’s mainly because I wear my musical inspirations on my sleeve, which then bleeds into my pen.
Believe it or not, I barely read poetry. Outside of classrooms and homework assignments, I normally don’t take the time to read poems from other writers. To be fair, I don’t like reading in general, even though it’s been said that more But I love to analyze song lyrics and watch reviews and discussions about some of my favorite artists.
Know what motivates you. Know how it motivates. And incorporate it into everything that you write. Let the reader know who you are.
Consistency and experimentation is the eternal struggle of every artist who ever existed. If you remain consistent, you’re boring. If you do something different, then people complain about change. It seems to be a lose-lose situation for the creatives, but there is a way to achieve the necessary balance that will appease the most fickle of people.
Be consistent in your strengths and experiment with your weaknesses. For example, one of my strengths as a writer is my ability to adapt. I’ve never tried to write the same poem twice and I always challenge myself in my compositions. Sometimes I’ll focus on rhyming as much as possible. Other times, I’ll rely less on metaphors and abstractions and just tell you a story in a straightforward manner. Whatever your strengths are, always play to them.
Dealing with your weaknesses, however, is another monster entirely. It’s hard to admit your weaknesses, and it’s worst when it becomes evident in your work. For me, it’s always been following a set of guidelines involving syllable counts, the amount of lines needed, rhyming schemes, etc. My least favorite form of poetry is sonnets. As a matter of fact, I just hate structured writing and formulas in general. But the few sonnets that I have written taught me to be really careful with the words I use. And if I find myself stuck, I always try to make as much wiggle room as possible. I take a break, take a walk, or take a nap. The point is, I experiment by giving myself space to write and not taking it too seriously. Realizing that it’s a struggle makes it less of a battle and more of a speed hump that I can smoothly glide over. No harm is done and I learn something new in the process.
So try out different forms of writing. See how you can adapt to the various structures and obey the different rules. When the time comes and you’re feeling rebellious, you can always make your own rules.
Publish and be proud of it.
I added this last because I imagine that’s where some of you are stuck it. Whether you’re posting on Instagram or getting ready to publish your first book, putting your work out there can bring out some inadequacies and doubts.
“I wrote this poem, but I don’t know how others will receive it.”
“I just finished the final draft of this essay, but I’m not sure if it will be enough to raise my grade.”
And I know that anxiety all too well. I was 16 when I first started publishing poetry. My older brother introduced me to this website where he shared his works. I ended up doing the same, writing as much as possible and uploading as soon as I can. There was this excitement of sharing something I created.
At the same time, I felt this fear of critique. It’s this unspoken dichotomy of not wanting other people’s opinion, even though you’re writing for other people to see. I dreaded the idea of a poetic genius coming across a poem I spent days working on and writing a scathing review of it. My low self esteem would explode from the pressure and I would immediately start questioning my life’s worth. But over time, I realized the importance of critiques from those more experienced and understood that I’m not meant to be perfect at what I do. I just need to be confident in what I can deliver.
The critiques will come. The confusion will come. The praises will come. And even the obligatory vague comments will come. But as long as you are proud of what you created, the only opinion that ultimately matter is yours.
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