Making lists


Making lists (text version)

For me, the hardest part of writing is the first part – facing the blank page or the blank mind. I usually need to fill it with things in order to find something to start with. Two techniques I use a lot in my writing and in my teaching are listing and free writing. I certainly did not invent these techniques, they belong to everyone, but I first learned them from working with Jacob Sam-La Rose

Listing is something I use to help get some initial ideas down. It’s basically like making a shopping list but on a particular theme that you want to write about. 

If someone asks me what kind of music I like, my mind either goes blank, or it goes to a stock answer I have pre-prepared. But if someone asks me to write a list of songs I love at the moment, that I can do. The list frees me up not to have the perfect answer ready. 

Here are some examples of lists I might suggest you write to start to find a poem:

  • Write a list of celebrations you remember from your life.
  • Write a list of objects you have lost.
  • Write a list of foods you enjoy eating or making.
  • Write a list of objects that are significant to you in some way.
  • Write a list of smells you like. 

With a list, you aren’t looking for your ‘top five objects’, just for five significant objects that come to mind. That could be your toothbrush, your phone, or something special you were given as a gift. 

After a list there is always a choice to be made: which thing will you write about. Again, it’s not about finding your top choice, just noticing which thing stands out to you the most. What do you want to explore further, right now?

The great thing about choosing one thing is that you can come back to all of the others later. Listing can give you a starting point for a whole lot of poems to be written or revisited over time.