Creative Writing Tips: Take Inspiration From The Poets

Posted at 05:48am on 19th September 2009

Sometimes the sheer effort of writing seems to be almost overwhelming. Whatever inspiration you once had has evaporated. You feel tired, drained and dispirited.

We’ve all experienced it. You wake up one morning and think, what on earth am I doing with my life? All those hours spent cooped up with no one but yourself and a bunch of fictitious characters for company have failed to set your writing career on fire. Your creative writing tasks are no more than a flickering flame; and the struggle to reignite them, to fan them into life and vigour is – well – simply beyond you.

If this is you and you think you wouldn’t know where to begin, think again.

TAKE INSPIRATION FROM SUFFERING

William Cowper (pronounced Cooper) born in England in 1731, was a manic depressive. Whilst training as a solicitor, he fell in love with his cousin, Theodora. But marriage, for two people so nearly related, was out of the question. He was distraught and, having attempted suicide on three occasions, was sent to a lunatic asylum.

There, as a result of his hurt and angst, he wrote his first poem which began “Hatred and vengeance, my eternal portions”, plus a series of poems titled Delia chronicling his lost love. Whilst never entirely shedding his depressive condition (he had further bouts of madness) he continued to write and went on to become a prolific and much loved 18th Century poet.

The much vaunted Laws of Attraction demand that you conceptualise and visualise the positive. Yet most of my best writing has come out of a period of suffering: when my first marriage felt apart and ended in divorce; when my middle daughter embarked on a thirteen year heroin habit; when, having kicked her habit and led a normal life for years, she died as the result of a single morphine tablet slipped into a drink.

The point is that depression is often an introverted condition. Where an extrovert would probably indulge in a bit of smash and grab and generally behave in an undignified display of attention-demanding exhibitionism, the introvert’s mind wages battle with the negatives of a set of circumstances. And creative writing – whether poetry or prose - is an introvert’s expression of that inner battle.

BE INSPIRED TODAY

  • Don’t let your negative feelings get you down: Use them.
  • Keep a journal of your thoughts.
  • Write a letter to yourself or a trusted friend.
  • Your battle will be somebody else’s too, and you will have the opportunity of speaking into their lives.
  • You may not use what you’ve written immediately. But some day it may form the basis of a truly inspirational piece of creative writing.

BE INSPIRED BY NATURE

William Wordsworth, born nearly forty years after William Cowper, was a great admirer of his work. His family home was in The Lake District, one of the most beautiful regions of England, and one which was to influence him greatly. His father, though largely absent due to his work as legal representative of the Earl of Lonsdale, taught William poetry by exposing him to the works of Milton and Shakespeare.

William’s mother died when he was six years of age. Her parents, his grandparents, lived in Penrith, Cumberland and he was sent to live with them. Frequently treated harshly by his relatives, he found solace in the peace and serenity of the moor lands surrounding their home.

One of his most famous poems, “The Daffodils”, reflects the journey he made through these circumstances, and the influence that nature had upon him. The first line, I wandered lonely as a cloud, begins with his loneliness, continues with the inspiration that nature afforded him, and finishes with the way in which those inspirational memories continued to lift him above the downcast spirit that sees him lying in vacant and pensive mood upon his couch.

AN INSPIRED CHOICE: GET OUT AND ABOUT

Give me inspiration like that, you may be thinking. But the fact is that it is available to all of us. Inspired thinking by author Dorothea Brande is that Right Brain (the creative sphere) is stimulated by repetitive action which requires no Left Brain intervention. So walking and gardening – both pursuits which need no intellectual input, but which both commune with nature – are ideal.

  • Inspirational: get yourself outside and allow yourself to be ‘soaked’ in the natural world.
  • Get walking, or gardening: physical pursuits encourage the endorphins which lift you out of negative thinking.
  • Be inspired: read my article on Right Brain thinking.

And that’s it for today. Next time we’ll look at other ways in which to encourage the creative juices to flow. Till then – shall I see you jogging, or weeping, in the park?

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