Working with a Poet

Lyrics of the day: Ivre comme un poète, libre comme une mouette – Tourner la Page by Zaho

Today in Creative Writing we had a workshop with this slightly famous poet called Mike Garry. (If you don’t already know him then feel free to Google him, he’s kind of a big deal!)
He’s a pretty cool person. When I heard we’d be doing a workshop with a poet, I instinctively expected an uptight, complacent and self-assured man, something along the lines of a Lucius Malfoy.
But hey, thank my lovely buttons, I was wrong. He was expressive, outgoing and interactive, as any poet should be. At a certain point he told us to get a pen and paper and write down some tips to being a writer, and these tips are what I would like to share with you.

  • Read lots
    Is it a myth that people who like to write also like to read? So far the two seem to correlate pretty well. I’ve yet to meet a great writer who never enjoyed reading.
  • Write lots
    Not everything we write is going to be our best work, but he (Mike Garry) told us that we have to write the shite things too. I’m thinking of it as a filtering process: if you get all the bad writing out, you’ll be left with the good. So write as much as you can, experiment and evolve. Write stories, be them long or short, complete or unfinished, real or fiction. Write poems, whether sonnets or haikus, elegies or ballads,or limericks. Practise really does make perfect.
  • Have a pen
    Personally I always carry a pen and notepad with me wherever I go, and I have my phone as a backup. You never know when inspiration will strike, and writing things down in the moment will always feel different to writing things in retrospect. If you get an idea, even if it is just one word, I would recommend you to stop, take your pen out, write it down, and continue.
  • Work with what you like
    Writing is not a simple thing. There is never a right or wrong answer, and therefore there is no set formula to go about doing it. Some of us work better during the night time. I myself have spent many-a-night writing until the sun came up and peered through my window, and the birds started chirping at me to finish up. Maybe some people write better at home in silence or in a café on a busy street, or on a bench by the river bank. Do you have a special pen that you write with, and only that pen is worthy of scribbling all your mind’s creations? Then so be it, work where you like, when you like, in the state that suits you best with the equipment that feels best.
  • Reward yourself
    As soon as he said this, I remembered A-Level Psychology and the principle of rewarding behaviour in order for it to repeat itself. I wouldn’t take this tip too literally because let’s be honest, how many of us have sat down to do 5 minutes of homework and felt like we’d earned a two week break? Too many would be the truthful answer. So I say keep the rewards to a minimum, something that will not spin out of control. But reward yourself nonetheless. Us writers are the soul of the world and if no one will acknowledge it then we can always celebrate with our favourite chocolate fudge cake and an anime marathon (or whatever you’re in to).
  • Play/ Have fun
    Writing is something that must come from only two organs, either the heart or the brain. Enjoying it makes it seem less like work and more like, well, fun. If you like what you are doing then you are more likely to employ more effort, resulting in a better outcome. It’s almost mathematical really, more fun = better work!
  • Use Libraries
    Now I’m not entirely sure what he meant by this and I probably should have asked him to elaborate. I would interpret it in the sense that writers like reading and therefore could probably make good use of a library, one way or another.
  • Writing Workshops
    You know when we said write lots? Yes, well, writing workshops are a great motivation, not only to write regularly, but also to expand your style and really find the famous “voice” that we all look for. If you can’t find a writing workshop within reach or price range, you can always start one with your friends or fellow writers.

I would also like to share with you the work we did in the lesson. In groups of about 4 people, we were told to each cut out interesting headlines from a newspaper that we were supposed to have brought with us. Then, we’d put our headlines together and form a poem of some sort, and stick it on a board. Here’s what my group (The Geeks and Punks) came up with:


It’s supposed to say:

Now the clock is ticking
You’re getting old
A glorious slice of misery
Garden of tears
The heart took over the head
The chosen few in heaven
Made suicidal plans
Loyalty is pathetic
High flying, electric
Last hours of freedom
Just drive down the beach and keep going.


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