In order of appearance:
1. RECEive. I remember spelling that word wrong on a paper I wrote for class in grammar school. When the teacher gave it back to me after she graded it, she bent down over me as I was sitting at my desk until we were face to face and said, really loudly, “R-E-C-E. R-E-C-E. R-E-C-E. R-E-C-E.” To this day, every time I write the word “receive,” I say to myself, “R-E-C-E.” I doubt that I’ll ever spell that word wrong again.
2. -er I try to make sure that when I say something is bigger, for instance, I also mention what it is bigger than. My high school teacher, who gave me quite a few lessons in writing and life, reinforced in me that when you use a comparative word, it begs the question of what is being compared. So it’s not enough to say “I have a better understanding now,” but rather “I have a better understanding now than I did before.”
3. Reveal yourself. When I took a creative writing class in college, I wrote several short stories. (I didn’t consider myself to be a poet at that time.) One story in particular had mostly dialogue, which prompted the professor to suggest maybe I look into being a playwright. It wasn’t until the end of the semester I wrote a character study that was introspective, had a sensitive subject matter, and quite emotional. The prof told me that this is the kind of writing I should do, that the style seemed authentic to who I am, and that to be a writer is to reveal yourself.
4. The basics are keys to innovation. After college, I continued to write diligently and was a subscriber to Writer’s Digest magazine. Although I didn’t consider myself to be a poet, the first article I would turn to when I got my monthly issue was the poetry column, which at that time was written by the great Judson Jerome. I ended up buying his book, The Poet and the Poem. I feel so blessed to have the original hardcover. I’ve seen it being offered for less than a dollar on Amazon, but it is the one book no one could ever pay me to give away. For me, there is my poetry before reading that book and the poetry after.
While I was well acquainted with meter before reading The Poet and the Poem, I really understood how essential meter is after reading it. I spent countless hours applying it to my own work. I began to broaden my experimentation with poetic forms, learning that each one demands that the writer flex different muscles. Most importantly, I came to understand that each poem must tell a story in some way–linearly or otherwise–or simply be about something. Yes, it is possible write a poem about nothing in particular. I’ve done it: it’s not ideal.
These lessons learned have given me everything I need to be creative. It’s possible to think outside of the box when you have a firm grasp of what belongs inside of it.
What lessons have you learned over time?
© Sweepy Jean and Sweepy Jean Explores the (Webby) World, 2012.