How writing poetry helps me write fiction

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I am a stickler for words.  I’ve tried to pretend it’s not true, but it is.  For instance . . .

  • I hate it when people at the office chat over instant messaging in all lower case and and don’t bother to spell check. (NOT referring here to texting shorthand like ‘thx’ or ‘l8r’)
  • I cringe (just a little) when my 12YO says at the dinner table ‘Can I be excused?’, instead of ‘May I…’  (Of course she can, but whether or not I’ll let her is another matter.)
  • My hackles raise just a bit whenever anyone says to me ‘Why don’t you {fill in the blank}’.  (They’re not really asking me if I will do something; they’re asking me to tell them why I won’t.

I digress.

Often when I’m working on a story I find myself rewriting the same passages over and over again, trying to get the words just right.  While it is true that this has obvious merit, each writer has her/his own style and habits.  And they know their own weaknesses better than anyone else.  I know enough about me to recognize that my pickiness about words often prevents me from getting on with the story – at least during the initial drafting stages.  It’s at times like these I step away from writing fiction and turn to writing poetry.

While I enjoy contemporary poetry (I won’t even begin to list any favorites for fear of having to list them ALL) my heart belongs to the English Romantics; Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, Byron (oh Byron!), and a few lesser knowns.

The reason, for me, is structure.

Shakespeare wrote beautiful sonnets, but Wordsworth wrote some 800 ranging over all manner of subject matter.  And nothing can match the rhythm of music that takes over my thoughts when I’ve spent a little time reading Lord Byron’s rollicking couplets.

I digress . . . again.

The point of all this is at least for me, is when I find myself working too hard at getting the most exacting and pristine words in the page in the most elegant and perfect order, I’ve missed the point of telling my story and fallen into writing exercises and word play.

That’s when I put my fiction aside, take up an actual pen (specifically my Zebra F-301 BP refillable) and one of my trusty $.50 Staples Composition notebooks, and set to work on some formal poetry.  I may begin something new, but usually I just go back and tinker with a poem already in progress.  It might be a sonnet or a simple narrative poem with measured iambs and feet.  Just a little time letting my structural inhibitions run wild exploring an idea or a theme helps me get it out of my system and put the need aside.  Plus, when I’m finished I’ve added some new, unplanned creative writing to my personal repertoire which has to be a good thing.  In this way, I don’t end up treating my fiction like my poetry and I can move ahead with the writing . . . at least until it’s time to revise!

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One Response to How writing poetry helps me write fiction

  1. R-H Perspectives » How writing poetry helps me write fiction: How writing poetry helps me write fiction.. #poetry

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