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How To Unblock! Write First Time, Every Time!


OK, you! You poem. Now!... The poem is in there but the body is weak, sitting so physical, full of itself, strangled. In here someplace. Hello? Hey ho....
Difficulty: Average
Time Required: Yours

Here's How:

  1. Listen, here’s the adage, never forget: writing is the application of the seat of one’s pants, to the seat of one’s chair. So, stand up!

  2. Do the opposite. Rebel, tear (in all senses, including literally!), and there’s the poem. Remember, too, that Every Poem Contains Its Opposite, or as is cryptically stated, Write the Poem Behind the Poem.

  3. Remember Larry Eigner, who sat in his wheelchair all day every day for sixty-some-odd years. Looked out window, Berkeley yard, and tree. “The tree sits /” he pecked out with a single slow aimed finger, “and birds come.” So they do. Patience.

  4. Poems are made out of words. Which words? What words? Where do you find these words? Words are all around you, eh? Write them down! (There’s the poem!)

  5. Read. Read something, poem or whatnot, and you are able to use those words, or they could lead you someplace, and then those are the words.

  6. Even if you’re stuck someplace, need a word, maybe you’ll want to think which poet can get you out of this tight spot, and open up their book, and find the word(s). Or not, i.e., try the words those words lead you to, try the words those words “come from.”

  7. After a while, it’s true, you may have to trick yourself. Just become somebody else and write their poems. Fernando Pessoa would have half the magazine by his heteronyms. You may want to invent a name for the poet you’re being, as Pessoa did. Or, the poem could be by your mother or by a nameless part of yourself.

  8. You can always write a poem in Beast, like Michael McClure’s Ghost Tantras. Then again, it could be concrete.

  9. Revise an old poem of yours. Change every word. Voila!

  10. Get a publication in a language you do not know. Translate into your new poem. No dictionaries!

  11. Pick a form, any form. Turn a newspaper headline into the poem of that form.

  12. Get off the computer, put down the notebook. Pick up the tape recorder, or just walk around and say the poem to yourself until you’ve composed (and memorized) the whole thing in your head.

  13. Get some new pencils, a fountain pen, buy a pad of poster paper 2’ x 3’ or bigger. Write on 3” x 5” cards. Use a blackboard. Crayons and paper bags.

  14. Go to sleep with a pen in your hand, paper under your pillow or notebook on bedside table. Write the poem in your dream. Do not wake up.


  1. “Step Two is wobblyspeak!” you shriek, and there you are stuck in chair and the poem won’t come and you don’t know if “tear” (see above) is to rip or to cry as you rip your hair out and cry. Patience, patience....
  2. The grass is greener and the poems flow just across the fence. Look over the fence at it, how green and flowy. That is you, over there, toe in pool, mowing the lawn (the clippings! they are the poems!).

What You Need

  • Words, that’s all, on page or screen, in your eyes or ears or mouth or mind.

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