How poetry helps your creative writing skills

Creative writing is one type of writing, but not the only one. The thing is though, to do it well you have to practice. And one way to practice is to write poems, here’s why.

Creative writing is one type of writing, but not the only one. The thing is though, to do it well you have to practice. And one way to practice is to write poems, here’s why.

Creative writing often involves storytelling. So, to begin, I’ll tell you a story.

It was a quiet evening. The kind of quiet where you can hear your own thoughts rattling around your mind.

I was writing a feature article - or trying to. My ideas pool was dry and I was struggling to come up with the words.

Sure, I had some great quotes to use. And I had plenty of facts to support them. I’d even figured out the angle.

But...

I wrote hundreds of words but then scrapped them. I would have quit and gone to bed. But the damn article needed to be written.

My subject was the conflict in Afghanistan. So I started browsing my notes and files about the various wars throughout history.

A while later (I’m not sure how long, I got engrossed) I came across a poem by the famous World War 1 poet, Wilfred Owen.

I read and re-read that poem, savouring every word.

Next, I flipped back to my article and wrote the first draft straight through, without stopping.

The poem was called 1914 but that doesn’t matter. It was how reading it loosened up my mind that was important.

Rhythm and structure

I’m not a fan of unstructured poetry that doesn’t follow any rules.

When you write a poem using a form that has structure, you get two things:

  1. A framework to write within
  2. The freedom to experiment inside that framework

Let me be clear: most writing you do has rules that you have to observe. Rules about grammar, paragraphs, tone etc.

The challenge when writing a poem is to free your mind - but still write in the defined structure of the poetic form.

Using sonnets as an example

I like the structure of the English sonnet. It consists of 14 lines with 10 beats per line.

The rhyming scheme follows an A B A B CDCD EFEF GG structure. It takes some effort but when you get to it, they are great fun to write.

You can experiment with all sorts of ideas buzzing around in your head. I wrote one with this post in mind. You can read it here.

Anyway...

My point is: writing by using poetic constructs frees your mind. It’s a different way of thinking about what you write. And that helps you to focus when you get back to work.

Try it, you’ll see what I mean.