Class Notes: Proven Habits of Productive Poets

In this installment of Class Notes, I will be going over some habits by productive poets that will aid you in writing process. The information below will be from a section from Poet’s Market 2017 titled “The Habits of Highly Productive Poets” by Scott Owens. Click here if you missed the last Class Notes.

1. Belief
Why do you write poetry? A loaded question, yet it’s a dilemma that every poet must wrestle with first.

Is it a way to vent? To find meaning? To share experiences?

Scott Owens mentions poetry as being “both an ontological and an epistemological act—both a way of being in the world, and a way of making meaning out of the world.” So as you’re writing, be aware of the power that you possess in your pen.

2. Confidence
For any new poets, posting your poetry to the public can be intimidating. You may be still figuring out your style and you’re not sure about the feedback (or if people will read it at all).

Believing in your work leads to the confidence of sharing it with the masses. You must convince yourself that you have something to say and that everyone should hear it. By being confident, productive poets are constantly inspired to add value and produce engaging content.

3. Receptive
Productive poets are both creators and consumers. Notepad or note app in hand, poets must be equipped to quickly capture observations, ideas, and events. Don’t always rely on your memory; it’s better to have concrete evidence to refer back to.

4. Attention
Learn to focus on the smaller details. Find the weird connections that most people wouldn’t even think of. Attentiveness is a muscle that takes time to develop in this digitally-saturated world of updates and notifications. If it means putting your phone on airplane mode or spending more quality time in your quiet place, make it a goal to be more attentive.

5. Attuned
Read more than you write. Join a writing group. Submit to a poetry contest. Write reviews. Look for opportunities to help other poets.

As a poet, it’s easy to remain stuck on our own islands while waiting for people to come to us. But there’s a whole world out there that we must be willing to explore and engage in.

6. Ingenuity
There’s no need to rush a poem. In fact, it’s more beneficial to spend as much time as you can on it. Write more than you need to, then remove the unnecessary portions until you are satisfied with the final product.

Some techniques that are worth considering include:

  • clustering
  • free association
  • automatic writing
  • meditation
  • focused freewriting

Incorporate these techniques into your next poem and discover new ones in the process. You’re bound to find something that will work best for you.

7. Enjoyment
The revision process is arguably the most frustrating part of writing anything. Yet as perfectionists, we’re less likely to just publish the first draft. So how do we find enjoyment in the revision process?

Owens states that “good poets tend to understand that the real craft of writing comes in the rewriting, and as difficult and sometimes painful as that process can be, it is the part of writing that they enjoy the most.” The enjoyment comes from trying out different methods to improve a piece. With so many possibilities at your disposal, a poem is never truly finished. Be content with your content and you’ll enjoy the process.

8. Thick-Skinned
Prepare yourself for criticism. You are not your poetry.

Once you publish it, it’s for the people to digest and critique. While it’s understandable to be defensive of your work, productive poets don’t internalize criticism as a personal attack. Rather, they objectively respect all forms of commentary and detach their personal biases from the poem being critiqued.


4 thoughts on “Class Notes: Proven Habits of Productive Poets

  1. This is great! You write very well, in an organised and concise way. I love the quote by Scott Owens. I already do some of it. I don’t experiment with many ways, in the rewriting project. Most of my poems are streams of consciousness. The format is not that relevant to me. The message and rhythm are. Thanks for your article!


    1. Appreciate the comment! Like you, I’m not big on format. But I think the advice is aimed towards new poets who are struggling with their content. If you’re mostly experimental and free form, then some of this stuff won’t apply. And that’s fine. Thanks for reading!


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