On writing poetry – Shalini Dua

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By Shalini Dua

I started writing poetry during a particularly rough breakup. The more fraught the relationship got, the more my work improved; directly correlated with how raw my feelings were. I also find myself writing during particularly severe bouts of anxiety or when I encounter a piece of art that moves me.♥

While writing novels, short stories, articles and/or essays can be daunting and quite a lot of work, writing poetry can be cathartic and freeing. A poem doesn’t have to follow any rules, it just needs to have rhythm and emotion. The only thing necessary for a poem to be successful is to dig deep and tap into your feelings. Here are a few tips that I find helpful in the poetry writing process.

Feel: Write what you are feeling. Don’t worry about rhyming or syntax. Just write something and then use that as clay to sculpt your poetry. It can be as simple as putting down a few words that are rolling around in your head, getting down two lines or going on as long as the verses are flowing. The essence the reader should takeaway is the feeling you are trying to convey.

Art: When I’m feeling stuck and writers block is getting in my way, I immerse myself in the kind of art that moves me or helps me understand a feeling I couldn’t quite access by myself. Seeking out the works of artists you like and respect is a good place to begin. It doesn’t just have to be poetry; film, music, books, anything that speaks to you will work. Art should change your perspective even if just by making you feel understood.

Audience: Thanks to social media, we have a pretty strong insight into what like-minded people are thinking, feeling or experiencing.  Sometimes, spending time listening to what those around you are going through can really help in creating something that speaks to the general sentiment. For example, with the political climate globally as fraught as it is right now, I’ve been inspired to write some pieces about humanity, empathy and the state of the world. My aim is to try to tap in to my own unique perspective while connecting with other humans.

Stop writing and start living: Ok, hear me out. When the words just aren’t coming, I find the best thing to do is take a walk or do the dishes; some mundane task that doesn’t occupy my mind but does get me up and moving around. Or, go do something really fun. If you don’t have a deadline and you’re writing just for yourself, the best way to have something to say is to live and have experiences. The best creative work comes from actually having done stuff, Brontë sisters notwithstanding.

Let it Go: If there is something troubling you, keeping you awake at night, or even speaking to you through your dreams, writing about it can help to release it into the world and cleanse you of the worry. Sometimes your writing can just be for you and can be a therapeutic release of a feeling, thought, or event you need to let go.

All writing comes from a place of truth. Here are a few pieces where I’ve put my own tips into practice.

Shalini Dua was born just outside of London and boomeranged back after growing up on the East Coast of the US. An international upbringing gave her a taste for wanderlust and the theme is heavily featured in her debut work, The Secret Lives of Royals. The novel explores a secret society with membership based on royal blood and follows Olivia Thorpland as she embarks on a life enabled by unprecedented access and power. The Secret Lives of Royals is out now.


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