Thoughts on Writing & Editing (Part1)
Rambling thoughts of a 6 ft poet……
Eat cake, drink tea and then look back on something you’ve written – it definitely helps the editing process! And if you can, leave it untouched for as long as possible – an hour, a day, a week…..the longer the better, as distance will give you a clearer perspective. Sometimes you stumble on something scribbled long ago and forgotten, and can spot the potential lines crying out for a new poem, or the fact that the whole piece of paper belongs in the recycling bin.
Be prepared to write badly. We all do, sometimes. It’s ok, and with hindsight you’ll love some of your work more than others. Some will seem as awkward as teenage diaries, or embarrassing old school photos. 😉 Just keep going, start something new and keep the faith….. my boyfriend is a scientist and uses statistics to say that the chances are the next piece will be better….or something like that, but with several graphs and copious numbers and scientific theories…..
Morning pages are a good idea if you’re stuck in a writing rut – see Julia Cameron and just sit down with bed-head hair, pen & paper and a cup of tea and scribble whatever is in your head to clear it out onto the page. Then you can mine it for the odd random good thought to work with, or start something afresh later that day with a clear head and a few pages of notes already scribbled – proof you are a writer! Although these pages are never to be read by another, no matter how much they love you. If i’m doing them, I make my handwriting so illegible that even I struggle to re-read them. Or maybe that’s just because it’s too early and my hand was still asleep at the pen…..
Don’t write the same poem. Again. Don’t write the same poem! Of course we’ll all have certain subjects we return to, or familiar themes, but try new things too….which is where a writing exercise or a workshop can highlight a new area for you and will be refreshing. Write about cheese, or your grandmother’s hands, about the first day at school, the urges you have when you order coffee from the cute barista, write in the voice of an excited 5 yr old at school playtime etc. You will still come through quite clearly in any of these subjects by the way, even if you can’t spot it! I did a residency at WBA (West Bromwich Albion) football club and wrote a piece as a small boy and performed it, to be told – ‘Oh that was just like you!’ so we’ll still leave a trace of our own DNA behind. Sometimes writing surprises you. I was introduced at a gig, by the uber talented and lovely Polarbear poet, as being a romantic poet who wrote about love. I was horrified. I thought, hang on – just because I’m the only woman on the bill, doesn’t mean I’m a soppy loved up girl. Then I realised I was, despite my tom boy image. Damn – poetry can do this – it outs you!
- Say yes to things. Obviously not if it’s unsafe – so don’t agree with you wildest friend to step into a lion’s cage while wearing platform wedges and drinking tequila…..but in the writing sense, say yes. Offer to help at an event, or read at one, or mentor someone, or go on a writing course, or co-write something with someone. Be honest if you’ve not much experience, but go for it and you’ll learn all sorts of things in the process and meet new people and something positive will usually come from it.
- This is how I began writing, applying for a short writing course – even though the last thing I’d written down was 20 yrs earlier. I discovered I was the only newcomer on a course squished full of extraordinarily talented & experienced people, mostly published and who all seemed to know each other already and were all very knowledgeable about things I’d never heard of. Yikes. But it was fine, they were a lovely bunch, some of whom are now friends. And I was a novelty, so perhaps that was refreshing for them too. Never feel you have to pretend to be anything you’re not – just be yourself – in life and in writing.
- P.S sometimes you’ll say yes to so many things that there are barely enough hours in the day…… I’ve had one of those months lately and my computer breaking and deciding not to work again, just out of guarantee…..grrrrrrrr….hasn’t helped, so this is being scribbled extraordinarily hastily while doing a radio show….and preparing for the Poets Laureate Takeover day in the LOB (Library of Birmingham) tomorrow – Sat 25th October.*
Thanks for your input Charlie, especially in light of your busy schedule and technical failing of all technology! Great advice!
* I advertised this on social media and didn’t get a chance with Inkspill and 94th Birthday celebrations to get to the library or advertise it on the blog! Missed a treat I’m sure. It was part of the Voices season.
Birmingham Poets Laureate Take Over
A morning of pop up poetry readings, performances and workshops led by former Poets Laureate
Drop into the Library of Birmingham for poetry performances, poetry surgeries, workshops and plenty of interactions from some of the city’s former Poets Laureate and Young Laureates. Join the band of wandering poets to celebrate and showcase the best of Birmingham over the years.
A morning of pop up poetry readings, performances and workshops led by former Poets Laureate including Jan Watts, Charlie Jordan, Roy McFarlane, Giovanni Esposito (aka Spoz), Adrian Johnson, Simon Pitt, Chris Morgan, and Julie Boden.
More from Charlie Jordan soon – look out for Part 2