Read lots of everything – from novels to plays to poems to porridge boxes, crisp packets, everything and anything. Write at home. Write whatever you want, however you want. Try writing all kinds of things – stories, short plays, songs, all kinds of poems – from raps to free verse to haikus to kennings.
Write as often as you can
Get into the habit of writing poems – or just something, anything, even a diary – as often as you can. At least think about your writing every day.
Read your poems out loud
If you want to, try reading your poems out loud to friends, and hear how they sound as you say them. Get others to read them to you. Do the words fit? Do they flow? Are you saying exactly what you want to say? Are all the words doing their job? What can you do to develop the poem? Leave the poem/piece for a while, say a few weeks. Go back to it and see what needs doing next. Writing is a craft skill and even with a short poem it can take time to get it right.
Beware of lazy rhymes
This is the story of Cinderella/the girl with the lovely green umbrella – lazy rhyme. Work hard at finding a better rhyme – eg
This is the story of Cinderella/the girl that met a hunky fella. Or better still, try not using rhyme for a while, and write some free verse. Rhyme can very much restrict your ideas. Free verse, as the name suggests, frees you up to use all kinds of words and language. Read some Michael Rosen pieces for examples. His book Centrally Heated Knickers (Puffin) is full of free verse.
Get your hands on an anthology
Get yourself a really good poetry anthology – a book with many different poets and poems. Try Roger McGough’s Ring of Words (Faber & Faber) or some of the fantastic The Works (Macmillan) series. Read a couple of poems a day. If a poet uses a trick that you like – such as an image, a structure, a form of rhyme, try using it yourself. This is not stealing an idea, more being inspired by something!
Learn some poems you like
Learning a few poems by other poets off by heart is always useful too.
Use pen and paper
Try not to write too much on the computer. I’ve learnt not to trust the screen. The poem looks too good too soon on the screen, as Roger McGough (not name dropping or anything!) once told me. Try writing by hand, and then put your second draft onto your PC. Then print it out, work on it more, then type in the changes and keep going like this. This works well for me. Hope it does for you too. But most of all you have to find the way that you work best, the way you write best.
Eat lots of porridge
Try it without sugar, and alternate between raisins and sultanas. Have it hot in the winter, cold in the summer. Invite friends round for porridge parties. Try out unusual porridge recipes.
Not everyone is necessarily a writer – BUT everyone can write poems! My friend, the prose writer Alan Durant says
to be a writer, you’ve got to be a reader and he’s right. The more you read, the more your writing will improve. Honestly!
Happy writing – and reading!