I prepared dinner so quickly, it’s not even 7 yet (Iftar today at 7:25 pm) and now I’m too tired to do anything already i.e cleaning my house and laundry. So, I took my laptop out (she’s nice today Alhamdulillah) and think maybe I could just sit here and free-write.
First of all, Selamat Berbuka Berpuasa if you’re a Muslim.
Secondly, in case if you’re wondering, free-writing is a pre-writing technique in which a person writes continuously for a set period of time without regard to spelling, grammar, or topic. It produces raw, often unusable material, but helps writers overcome blocks of apathy and self-criticism. Source
So here I am free writing, or free blogging if you would like to call it. I do this all the time. I figure out what I’m writing about when it’s already half way through the process. And that’s mostly applied to my journal entry, or a blog post like this.
But I think, it’s quite different when I’m writing a poem.
A girlfriend (with her cute little kids) staying over at my place last week asked me about my poems. She’s amazed on how I choose certain words over certain words in my poems and she’s curious about my whole process of writing it. Is it really like jotting down prophecy or random inspiration? She said that every line sounds like different stories but as a whole, go well with each other. I take that as a compliment though I sometimes cringed re-reading most of my pieces – too many grammatical errors and awkward combination of words.
So, I told her about my workflow trying to convince her it actually can be done by anyone. Oh yes, there’s a workflow.
If there’s even prophecy in writing poems, it’s only one thing. The feelings. I think feelings are the core to a poem. At least for me. Other elements are mostly composable and there’s always a way to work around it.
#1 The trigger – feelings!
My steps are; first, I’ll write down that feeling. It’s like describing a situation. Sometimes a story, but a short one.
This is the skeleton. The details, the sequence or arrangement doesn’t matter at this point, I just need to get the setting and the feel; how I want the readers to be impacted after reading the poem.
#2 The words. All the words
Then I’ll write as many words and phrases as possible to describe the feeling in both languages English and Malay. I’ll also think about the possible metaphors or similes that I can use. This is the step where ‘brainstorming’ happen. The paper will look like a mind map with clouds of words everywhere rather than lines after lines of sentences
#3 The puzzle
I don’t know how everyone else is doing this but my composing step starts when I put the story and all the words altogether like playing a puzzle. This is the most fun part of the process, it’s like fashion designing and mix-matching the words to get the best outfits, in this case, the poem.
My English is not so perfect so I used Grammarly to check my grammar (there’s a premium version of Grammarly and I just use the free one) I go to Rhymer.com to find words that rhyme, I think Rhymer.com is the top secret here. I discover many new words from there and my vocabulary improves each time I completed a poem.
Apart from that, I also rely on Thesaurus a lot and simply, the Google. You have no idea how extensive the research just to compose a single line. I believe it’s the same thing when someone is writing a book. Not just doing research, but a writer will also try different jobs and stay at different places just to experience different characters for their books!