The Game of Poetry

The Game of Poetry

Poetry is a finicky game. Write what you know. Make it accessible. Treat it like a job. If you don’t love what you’re writing, no one else will. Show, don’t tell. Think about you audience, but not too much. All of these rules are true, and a few seem to conflict with one another. Feeling your way along in the dark can often feel like you are left on a dock without a mentor to help you along. Never feel you’re an orphan of words. Creativity doesn’t have to be a one-player sport.

Folks say, “I don’t know how to play well with others. I am an introvert.” I believe artists are all introverts to some degree. A majority of our time involves us in a room alone, or insulated in a crowded room, by our imagination, playing pretend with invisible people. This vivid internal world is crucial for a believable work of art that connects with other people. To balance the internal with a foothold in accessibility, it behooves the artist to adopt a workshop. The key to success is picking teammates who both challenge and support you.

Do not begin any project concerned about how your work will be received. That heavy priority will either daunt you from starting, or force out something so bland that it appeals to no one. Write it for you, keep your eye on the ball, and hunker down every day with excitement for the craft. Abandon fear, and live by the mantra: If I am the only one who reads this, that’s okay. If leafing back through the pages of your hard work gives you peace, you’ve achieved more than most people will in a lifetime.

Visit a few writing groups and online resources for a group that appeals to you personally and professionally. If you get that “uh-oh feeling” of negativity with any part of a group, walk away. Don’t huff off if you hear something other than, “You’re a genius!” Yet, don’t suffer envy, spite, or bullying. Think of your art as your child. Do you want the kid handed everything and blindly coddled? No. Do you want the youngster pushed around by their peers? Also no. Be patient. There’s a team out there perfect for you.

Like all games whether in football, the boardroom, or writing group there will be oodles of men and women who will not like you. Healthy competition breeds better material. Constructive criticism fleshes out your foibles and soft spots in a safe environment to increase your skill. On the other hand, unfair play is everywhere, and if you feel your work is bashed for the reason of keeping you insecure on the sidelines, calmly move on. It is not important for a jerk to know why you bounced from their negativity.

I suggest you meet at least once every two weeks to stay on-point and focused. Email each member you work for the next meeting well ahead of time to allow them an opportunity to study your material. Make sure each session is started with talk about life in general, laugh a little, but be sure to huddle up for the first round of edits before your creative energy is melted away in small talk. The product is the point. Don’t lose sight of the prize.

Set rules for the group that all agree upon. A time limit for each member’s work is helpful, but be flexible if one needs more attention. Understanding and patience goes a long way. Breakthroughs take time, and epiphanies can come out of nowhere. There is an alchemy to creative writing that makes our ball club mystical above-and-beyond eye-and-hand coordination. Yet, we need to bring the same dedication that an NFL player possesses, and wear a thick skin to process criticism without emotional bruising.

The game of poetry is an arduous, prophetic, and profitable. Do not let solitude lose you in the process of writing your first draft. Have faith. Be brave. Forgive yourself, but don’t cow down to anyone – including yourself. A rugged determination is one cornerstone of any successful player. Be your own quarterback, but be sure to build a solid team around you.

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