Last week, I kicked off a new series of posts that address questions I receive in my inbox. The first post dealt with poets getting agents--or rather, why that doesn't work for the most part (click here to read that post).
Here's this week's query from someone who contacted me about writing their first poem (which happens more often than you'd think): "This is the first poem I've ever written. Please let me know what to do from here."
Re-create Your Poetry!
Revision doesn't have to be a chore--something that should be done after the excitement of composing the first draft. Rather, it's an extension of the creation process!
In the 48-minute tutorial video Re-creating Poetry: How to Revise Poems, poets will be inspired with several ways to re-create their poems with the help of seven revision filters that they can turn to again and again.
This is the type of question that inspires books (ahem, Poet's Market) and writing courses, but I'll try my best to address it in a blog post. Here are the four things I believe you should do next:
- Keep writing.
- Keep (or start) reading.
- Connect with other poets.
- Share your poetry.
If you're going to take one step, you might as well take two and then three, four, five, six...and well, you get the idea. You might as well keep walking. Or in this case, keep writing.
Something stirred you to write that first poem. Find something to write the next poem. Heck, it might be the same muse. (By the way, I share poetry prompts on here every Wednesday.)
Write and keep writing--not because someone expects you to and not because you're looking for some kind of pay back. Write because it makes you a better person to turn ideas over in your mind and on the page.
Keep (or start) Reading
Writing is important for your development as a writer, but maybe more important is the act of reading. Read for enjoyment. And when you enjoy something, read again with a critical eye to pinpoint why you enjoyed what you read. By the same token, figure out why you did not enjoy something.
Read poems. Read fiction and nonfiction stories. Read writing instruction. Read children's books. Read advertising. Always, always read.
Your writing can only benefit.
Connect With Other Poets
I could've stopped after the first two points, and you'd be doing fine. But connecting with other poets is such an important step in the puzzle. Here's why: They believe in the same thing you do--that writing poetry is a worthwhile pursuit.
While it's never safe for anyone to live in an echo chamber, it does help to know that you're not crazy (or at least, not the only one who's crazy). Even if your styles of poetry are different (in fact, especially if your styles are different), groups of poets tend to grow when they get together.
This connection doesn't have to be every day. It doesn't even have to be in person. But having a group of poets to share your successes and frustrations with (and have them understand) is an important part of any poet's life.
Build an Audience for Your Poetry!
Learn how to find more readers for your poetry with the Build an Audience for Your Poetry tutorial! In this 60-minute tutorial, poets will learn how to connect with more readers online, in person, and via publication.
Poets will learn the basic definition of a platform (and why it’s important), tools for cultivating a readership, how to define goals and set priorities, how to find readers without distracting from your writing, and more!
Share Your Poetry
This final point is one that I've only added in the past year or so. Funny thing about this point, though, is that I've been doing it during the entire arc of my poeming life.
I've shared the story often that I first got serious about writing when I got serious about a girl in high school. I wrote her a poem, because I felt I had to. When I gave it to her, she wanted to read my other poems (which I didn't have), so I started writing more. And I got hooked on writing.
But the important part is that I shared the poem with an audience. When I started writing more, I shared those too--eventually sharing with other friends in high school. I created a fanzine that included poetry (mine and others) and joined creative writing courses when I was in college.
When the time was right, I start submitting poems to poetry publications. The rejections piled up, but I was sharing and growing as a poet. Eventually, the acceptances started happening (don't worry: the rejections never stop completely), and I grew with those as well.
What to Do From Here
Here's the thing: You've written a poem, and that's no small thing. But now you've got the taste of what it feels like. Either you like the taste and want to keep it going, or you don't.
There's no one clear path, because each one leads to a different destination. So take another step and watch that you don't get swept off your feet.
Have a question/comment? Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your question and my answer may be featured in a future blog post.
Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community, which means he maintains this blog, edits a couple Market Books (Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market), writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, leads online education, speaks around the country on publishing and poetry, and a lot of other fun writing-related stuff.
He did publish a literary and music fanzine in high school titled Faulty Mindbomb. He even pawned his bass guitar to afford publishing one of the issues, and that's why he's not a famous rock star. However, he is the author of Solving the World’s Problems.
Follow him on Twitter @RobertLeeBrewer.