By Molly Anderson | Posted 4/29/06 | Updated 6/2/21
Welcome to the wild and wonderful world of words! Follow along to discover different ways to get inspired, create a poem, edit your work, and make your own book to fill with poetry and artwork!
To start, I’d like to inspire you and help you find new ways to write; I hope to give you some tools for your creative tool box. Then, we’ll explore editing and book-making! Let’s get started!
Maybe you already have some ideas for a poem — if you do, write them down now. If you’re not sure what to write about, there are a lot of ways to get inspired. Here are five ideas to get you started:
Walk around your neighborhood, and take your favorite notebook and pen with you. Walk slowly, and keep your eyes peeled for interesting people, places, and animals to write about. Animals can be especially fascinating. If you spot two hummingbirds fighting over a feeder, or a big black cat sunbathing, stop to watch and write it all down. Describe every detail you can think of.
What is a Word-Pool, you ask? Let me tell you how to make one. Cut a few pieces of construction paper into a bunch of small shapes. Take a blue circle or a red square, and write down an interesting word or an idea for a poem on each side. Get some friends to help you — sharing ideas with other poets is an excellent way to become inspired to write more poems!
Find an empty fishbowl, a hat, or some other container to put them in. Mix your ideas up, then pick a few at random and use them to create a fabulous poem! You can add more ideas to your Word-Pool anytime you hear a cool new word! Become a rare-word collector, and add exotic words like frangipani, whippoorwill, and saffron to your Word-Pool. Look inside of cookbooks, phonebooks and dictionaries for more sizzling, enticing words.
Keep your Word-Pool on your desk, so it will be nearby when you’re writing. Some words in my Word-Pool are: marvelous, magnificent, bubbling, zany, and joyful. I’ll happily share them if you like them. If you don’t, go find some words that YOU love!
Free-Writing is simple, and a lot of fun. You can really surprise yourself with this technique — always a valuable skill for any writer! Sit down in a comfortable place with your trusty notebook and a couple of pens, crayons, and pencils. Then, write down the first thing that pops into your head. Keep your pen moving quickly, capturing your thoughts like wily wildebeests. Write without stopping to check for the correct spelling of a difficult word. Don’t worry about commas and question marks, just write down each thought as it occurs to you. If it doesn’t make sense or “look right,” who cares? No one ever has to see this but you, so don’t worry about it.
Now is the time to create something new. Editing comes later, so worry about spelling and proper grammar then, not now! If you’re not sure how to spell something, just do the best you can and keep blazing away with your pen. This is a 100-yard dash, not a marathon. Write just as fast as you can, until your hand is too tired to keep going! Then, do the same thing with your OTHER hand. You’ll write more slowly, true, but you may discover some interesting things about yourself when you write with your non-dominant hand. It can bring out the voice of your younger self, just learning to write! Writing with different instruments can also help you let your creative side out to play!
Alphabet cereal or pasta can make a fun snack — use the letters to spell out your favorite words, or write a haiku! Steal words for your Word-Pool from different packages, menus, and recipes, and write them down.
You can also use your refrigerator or a cookie sheet to display your poetry. Magnets shaped like letters or words are fun to rearrange and playing with them can lead you to discover delicious combinations of words!
Magnetic Poetry Kits are easy to find at your local bookstore or online. You can make your own word-magnets using a thin sheet or a strip of magnets from a craft store. One side is a magnet, and the other is sticky and covered with white paper. Just write on the paper side with a marker, then cut out the words and go play!
Instead of writing poetry, read some! You can also listen to someone reading poetry live or on YouTube. Lots of authors write poetry and stories — Silverstein, Seuss, and Sendak are three of my favorites for kids at heart! Reading poetry will inspire you and help you become more familiar with different types of poems. This will help you decide what types of poetry you’d like to write!
Now, you’re ready to make the leap — create a poem of your own! You have lots of ingredients: a cool blue Word-Pool to swim in, tons of ideas and interesting tidbits and details taken from the Free-Writing and Poetry Walk pages in your notebook. Decide which type of poem you would like to write. A haiku? Free verse? A limerick, or a sonnet? Then, start writing!
A haiku is a short poem — it has only three lines, and a mere seventeen syllables. Five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five syllables in the final line. Here is the haiku I created:
On this cloudy day
I search for signs of spring and
Find a lonely blackbird’s nest
After you have created a poem, it is wise to put it aside for a while before you try to edit it. I call this “letting the poem ripen.” Sometimes it is difficult to edit something right after you create it — you’re too close to the work, and can’t see its true worth. You might end up changing everything, or over-editing it; you might even decide the whole thing is no good and throw it in the trash. Stop right there! You’re trying to edit the poem before it is fully ripened, delicious and sweet!
Instead of editing now, write another poem, then another, and another. Keep wandering around your neighborhood on Poetry Walks, and hunt down new words for your Word-Pool. Allow your poems and scribblings to ripen for a month. Then when you're ready, consider some of the excellent editing tips and cool book-making projects that follow.
Now we’re going to talk about polishing your poems until they shine like rare jewels — also known as editing! Then, we’ll work together to create a unique book filled with your poetry and artwork.
First, find the right kitchen to cook in! Every chef is different, and should try out several different editing test kitchens in order to find out where you’re most comfortable cooking up a masterpiece! Do you prefer a desk, or a park bench? Music in the background, or silence? A public place with lots of people to watch, or a private one? Try everything! Find out what you like best — this will help you to stick with the editing process and have fun doing it!
Now, look through your notebook or journal for colorful words or ideas that paint images in your mind. Anything that makes you laugh, feel excited and curious, or affects you strongly might become part of a poem or a story. Highlight or underline these hidden treasures with a colored pen, or mark your favorite passages with a symbol you like — I use stars! Stickers can also be helpful in the editing process. You can use them to organize your work, color-code your ideas, or just decorate it! Find a system that you love, and use it!
Next, blend your ideas with some of your friends’ brainstorms, add your favorite words from the Word-Pool, and stir briskly! You can read each others’ work, offer suggestions and help, and share your opinions. This can be a little intimidating at first — when I share my work for the first time, I think What if they don’t like it? What if it’s just a horrible poem? What if I don’t know it’s a horrible poem and everyone else knows, but won’t tell me?
Push these fears aside, and begin. As a poet, you must begin to learn how to let your work outside of yourself, to let go of the result, and enjoy someone else’s honest opinion of it — even if it isn’t a rave review, you can figure out what works and what doesn’t, and use that knowledge to write even better poems in the future!
Write down your favorite words, brightest ideas, and catchy phrases on some clean paper. Cut them up, mix well, and simmer. Rearrange them on new pieces of paper until a poem appears, then use stickers to hold them in place! Play with another writer or get a group together and throw a Poetry Party! Create collaborative poems, mix everyone’s ideas together, and see how many poems you can create from this artistic blend. Repeat this process several times, until you have about half a dozen poems for your book-making project.
Now, let’s create a book. You will need two postcards (the same size), scissors, a glue stick, and a roll of adding-machine tape for the pages. This type of paper is perfect for an accordion-style book, because you can make it as long as you want.
Keep writing! You are a fantastic poet, breathing fire and ice, telling the hot truth and salsa-dancing with exciting, exotic words!
©2006 Molly Anderson. All rights reserved.
Creative inspiration, food for thought, prompts, and ideas for dipping deeply into your imagination and turning words and images into poetic words of art.