Using mindfulness to write better poems
There is an image we have of the poet – sitting alone, at a table, slowly writing words with a pen on paper. She is totally focused on her work, not distracted by any noise or a ringing phone.
This is an idealised image, but it is still accurate. As an art form, poetry is closely linked to the idea of being in the present moment, closely observing what it right in front of you, and mastering the use of blank space to produce poignant, singular images.
But how often do we get to experience that kind of quietness in our everyday lives? Most of the time, our minds are racing with thoughts, noise, distraction. This is more true in the era of computers and mobile phones than ever before. It can be almost impossible to find the time and space to really focus on our creative work.
Even though it is tempting to want to run away from it all to a tiny house in the woods, this is not a practical solution to the problem of an over-stimulated brain. Instead, perhaps we can find some other way to bring a sense of quiet and focus to our daily lives, so that when we do manage to squeeze in a writing session, it can be from a place of calm.
To do this, we outline some of the main mindfulness techniques that you can use to improve your poetry writing.
- Tuning in to your surroundings
One of the main things we learn from mindfulness is to try and tune in to the present moment. This can be done by simply paying a little bit more attention to your surroundings. Look around you and take a mental note of what you see: What objects are nearby? What sounds can you hear? What can you smell? What colours do you see? Taking a few moments to complete a simple observation can bring your awareness to the room. This skill is also something that is very useful in poetry: being able to notice and describe details.
Next time you are stuck, try simply writing a list that answers the above questions. Now try to make each answer into a line, and string them together into a stanza.
- Finding your breath
When we are constantly thinking about the past, future and other abstract ideas, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling constantly anxious. This kind of mindset can make it very hard to focus on anything for more than a few seconds. But if you can learn how to breathe, and focus on your breath, then you have a way of calming down that is always available to you. Your breath can become an anchor, and you can tune into it at any time.
Next time you are trying to write, take a few moments to breathe in for three seconds and then out for three seconds. Repeat this as many times as you want to. Now, when you return to writing, notice how you feel. Are your thoughts coming a little slower? Are you a little calmer?
- Having a writing routine
Another way to prepare yourself to write poems mindfully is to develop a routine (many great writers have their own). Our bodies respond to our surroundings, and you can create subconscious pathways in your mind that prepare you for writing. For example, if you have a favourite type of tea, if you prepare this every time you sit down to write the smell and taste of the tea will become an anchor that tells your body you are about to start your writing time. This can become a powerful tool to get yourself in the right headspace, particularly if you are coming to a poem after a long day of work.
We use mindfulness techniques in our poetry workshops in order to help you produce the best possible work. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness techniques for writing, come along to one of our workshops or masterclasses.