Q&A: How do you write?

A week ago, I posted an entry about why I write. This entry is about the process.

How do you write?

Often, a poem starts with a phrase or sentence that pops into my head. If it piques my interest enough, I write it down, then try to expand on it, to follow wherever it leads.

One of my favorite ways to get started is to follow a prompt. Left to my own devices, I worry that I will keep doing the same things over and over (beyond whatever stylistic elements make my poetry mine, that is); prompts give me opportunities to explore forms, vocabulary, or subject matter that might not occur to me otherwise.

Regardless of what gets me started, I write with pen and paper most of the time. Despite the danger of not being able to make out some of the words later on, this allows for more direct expression than typing into a word-processing document—particularly as I am far less prone to edit as I write. If I want to change something, I have to first either finish the thought or cross it out. Only after I reach a stopping point will I then type the poem into a document and print the page.

I rarely make extensive edits to my poems. Sometimes I will change a word or two as I type what I have written, or add punctuation if it seems called for, but I mostly leave things alone. My feeling is that I am giving my voice expression, and I’d rather not alter either my voice or its expression. On those occasions where I do make significant edits, I am more likely to cut lines or sections than I am to change any of the wording. It makes more sense to me to take out something that fails to ring true than to attempt a forced fit.

(20 October 2014)


  1. That’s a very interesting, and I suppose tried and true method, for writing poetry. All of my favorite poets did it this way, so I’m sure there’s something to it. I’m afraid I don’t have a gift for poetry, or at least none that I like reading. But for the hand writing, I’m sure there must be some level of intimacy with the page and the ink and the pen, a smooth flow of idea to voice to creation, which admittedly is lacking in my own favorite medium, the word-processor. I revise so much of what I write, however, that it would be simply untenable to write any other way. Famous authors did it for a thousand years before me, but it’s something I can’t contemplate. So many kudos to you sir! Dedication and appreciation of the old ways isn’t something often found. Thanks for sharing!

    • When I work on longer stuff, I’m more likely to sit down at the computer. In fact, I’m probably going to end up doing that with some short-story-type pieces I’ve been trying to work on, as writing them on paper first is not working out very well…

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