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How do you begin?

Posted on 21, Mar, 2018

21st March 2018

I started writing poetry several years ago, when cancer treatment made me too incapacitated to paint. Although I did several tiny pencil drawings from my hospital bed, there came a time when drawing required concentration which I didn’t have. Poetry, I discovered, could be small, quiet and private, and written on the back of a petrol receipt.

I’ve been writing poetry ever since, and I find it complements my visual work. Because I was untrained in poetry, I didn’t know the ‘proper’ way to go about it, so I’m always interested in how poets begin to write.

I suspect, just as with painting, that there are as many ways of going about it as there are people. Sometimes, a phrase or stanza will come into my head and insist on being written down. Sometimes, I write down everything I can think of about the subject, covering a lot of paper, just to get lots of words onto the page and these become my raw materials, to be whittled and honed into shape.

Most often, though, I can’t write until I start writing. Once I write a line, or even just a couple of words, something starts to flow. The challenge then is not to try to control the flow, but to let it follow its own path. By doing this, I often find I’ve written a poem about something completely different to the one I had intended. Often, I end up deleting those first precious lines, because they are now no longer required – their contribution was to start the flow.

So – the moral of this story is – start. It doesn’t matter where, or when, or how, or whether it’s any good. Just – START. And then something will happen.

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