Kick-starting New Poems

In the post-holiday, January gloom (it’s been foggy every morning this week so far) and lousy weather, it can be difficult to find inspiration to start new writing projects and easy to sink into despondency. Here’s some ideas that might trigger new poems:

  • Pick a colour and write down images or themes associated with that colour, eg green is suggestive of new beginnings, red suggests passion (love or anger), blue is calming. If you walked into a room decorated primarily with that colour, what would it tell you about the person who lives or works there?
  • List your previous addresses – if you’re a frequent mover, stick to half a dozen – pick one address and random and chose an event unique to that address – perhaps you celebrated a milestone birthday or a new job, heard a piece of significant news – and write about it.
  • Pick one of your songs at random and write down what images or themes come to mind when you listen to it. Does a particular fragment of lyric stick in your mind? Is there a particular memory associated with that song?
  • Try re-writing a story from the viewpoint of a minor character or an inanimate object. Either chose an episode from a favourite book or film or a well-known tale. Sometimes changing the point of view can add a new perspective to the original.
  • Dig out the recipe for your favourite winter comfort food and think about the smells, tastes and textures of the individual ingredients and the final dish. Does it conjure up any particular memories or sensations? At what occasions have you cooked/eaten that dish? Is there a story linked to it?
  • Without staring or making someone feel uncomfortable, notice someone on your next journey or daily commute. Briefly, mentally note what they’re wearing and carrying. Later write down what you remember (what you remember doesn’t have to be accurate: you’re not writing about the person you saw, you’re creating fiction) and create a back-story for them, showing their character through their choice of clothes.
  • Small Stones: each day take a few moments to write down an observation. It might be nature-based, noticing snowdrops in the January sun, or a small act of kindness. Whether you polish your small stone into a pebble or leave it as a rough-hewn chunk is up to you, but collect enough of them and you might see a theme developing or at least have some notes ready for NaPoWriMo in April.
  • Get up from your desk and get some exercise. Sometimes doing something rhythmic such as walking, riding a bike or swimming, takes you away from the pressure to write. Sitting looking at a blank screen or blank piece of paper is the worst place to look for inspiration.
  • Read. If inspiration still seems slow, pick a poem from a book and magazine and either note its themes or an image to write a new poem of your own or write a response to the poem you’ve selected.

What do you find a useful source of ideas?


2 Responses to “Kick-starting New Poems”

  1. jaynestanton Says:

    Thank you, Emma, for your timely suggestions for more ways into new writing (being into my 2nd week on sick leave and writing still taking a back seat). Ways I’ve found sometimes produce results:
    – choose a word at random; write a string of words, each similar in some way to the preceding word (including eye rhymes, half rhymes, assonance, etc). Look for links, themes, repeated words…
    – listen to a radio programme, or a tv programme with your eyes closed; jot down words or phrases you like. Is there a possible story there, or a subject you could pursue? (One of my recent poems came out of listening to Monty Don…)

  2. emmalee1 Says:

    Hi Jayne

    Thanks for your suggestions. Hope you continue to make a steady recovery.

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