Being a writer often starts with poetry. As a kid you'd browse through random english books and find something to read, which most likely ends you up with an encounter with famous poems like Trees by Joyce Kilmer. It gave you the idea that you, too, can try to write one. So you jot down your thoughts, given your idea of what poetry is from what you've read. And there—your very first poem.
In high school, your Lit teacher might have asked you to write a poem. So your second attempt, just this time, you're awake late at night doing it, taking inspiration now from something more personal–a broken friendship, a budding romance, or your family struggles. And there—your second poem.
Or maybe it wasn't just your first or your second. You're too hooked on this relationship with words that 2AMs are practically your time because it's when you're flooded with ideas for the next page of your notebook full of your poetry. The rush is there, your heart is there—for you, it's more than just stanza after stanza of thoughts. It built your life—a life you'd like to live forever.
The Paris Wife author Paula McLain's beginnings as a writer can be traced back in poetry. "When I write poetry, it almost felt like I'm in the bus—it always comes inside and outside of your mind. So I start to write it down," before it vanishes out of your train thought, she says. We caught up with her when she was here recently for National Book Store and Raffles Makati present The Philippines Readers and Writers Festival 2016, and she has more to share, so if you're eager to better your work, read on what she has to advise you, young poet:
1. Keep on reading other poems. “The first poem I read was in high school. My teacher gave me a book with a collection of E. E. Cummings works—he was big fan of poetry. Now I still have the book and it’s very special to me.”
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2. Balance your inspiration from the world of reality and fiction. “The theme of the first poems I wrote were about isolation, confusions. You know, when things happen to you that’s outside of your control. Part of me was trying to have sense in that world and another part of me was dreaming of another world all the time. I am reading science fiction and fantasy books about space aliens, princesses—that was the world I can count on.”
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3. Build on the imagery. “In poetry, you create an image that has an intense quality, something that really translates.”
4. Grow and empower yourself. “Whenever authority, confidence, and self-esteem collide, you give yourself a commission to dream big.”
5. Try out something new. “It’s a challenge, like your mind has to work. Get more experience. It pushes your creativity to your limit.”
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Photograph from Instagram.com/paula_mclain