How I Write a Poem Step 1: An Idea

A cream-colored mind

For a while now, I’ve been wanting to write about writing. This is partially because I so often think about my own writing process that I want to express those thoughts outside of my brain and partially because I want to engage other writers in a conversation about the writing process.

The way that I write now is quite organic. When I start a poem, it flows on its own, without any sort of plan. I frequently surprise myself with the finished product because my initial idea, which I thought would be great, was actually quite dull and limited compared to the finalized piece.

There are essentially two ways that I create a poem. The first is that it comes to me, more or less fully formed, and all I do is clean it up a little, maybe add some extra flair, and publish it onto my blog. This process takes maybe an hour on average from conception to publication, but can definitely be much less depending on the length of the poem and the amount of editing that it requires.

The second and much more common way that I write a poem is to start with an idea that I jot down somewhere and come back to sometimes moments or sometimes months later. The idea, which is usually just a line but can be anywhere from a single word to a full stanza, gets slowly added to over time. The actual writing process for this excluding the time between coming up with the idea and starting to work on it is usually a day or two during which I am constantly tweaking the poem, but has taken me up to several months.

In this series, I am going to break down that second process into steps and walk through what is happening in my head as I complete each of those steps. Here is my idea which will be the basis for the poem I will write throughout this series:

A cream-colored mind

It’s not much, and there’s a fair chance that that phrase will not even end up in the final product, but it’s my starting point.

This particular starting point has arisen from a question that I have had for myself: What do I bring to the table? My biggest difference (I think) from all of the other people like myself out there writing poetry is my aphantasia. I cannot “see” or “hear” my writing in my head. Imagery does not come naturally to me because I don’t think about the world in terms of my senses.

And since describing something accurately and describing something wildly incorrectly feel exactly the same to me, I want to create a collection of poems whose imagery go thoroughly off the rails.

How do you normally start working on a poem? How long does it normally take from the idea to the final execution?

Photo by Adrianna Calvo from Pexels