These past few weeks, I’ve suddenly found myself with more time to create. (Or maybe I’ve just become better at ignoring my responsibilities? Who knows??) But when I sit myself down to write something new, 99% of the time, my brain is either blank or refuses to quiet down enough for any Meaningful Thoughts to happen. Go eat a snack! Check your phone for new meme tags! Rearrange your sock drawer!
So then what do I do? Stare at walls and hope for inspiration? Write about how I’m unable to write? (Actually, I’ve tried both multiple times to varying degrees of success, but I digress.)
At the end of the day, different things work for different people. But one of my personal favorites for breaking the dam to free my ~creative energy flood~ is erasure poetry. The basic premise is this: if you’re stuck coming up with your own words, rearrange someone else’s!
Here’s a quick how-to!
1. Find an excerpt with some interesting words in it. This could be literally anything—a news article, another poem, a recipe, or even a physical page from a novel if you’re feeling destructive. Me? I love using short descriptions of plants or animals. (read: mostly birds) Here’s a description with some fantastic language:
2. Copy the text into a word document. Now, you can choose a font you like and put more space between lines so you can cross things out or write in your own notes.
So far so good? Now comes the fun part! After you hit print,
3. Pick your favorite pen or marker and start striking out words, effectively “erasing” them from the excerpt. A nice fat Sharpie works great for this, but choose your own adventure! Whatever you decide on will become part of the poem. (Mixed media?!)
side note: you can easily do this step on a computer by either highlighting words in black or deleting them entirely, but I find there’s something satisfying about blocking out words on a sheet of paper. Honestly, do whatever the heck inspires you—add words in! Move words around! The instructions are just here to inspire you to create something new.
4. Optional last step: rewrite your new poem using only the words you kept! Maybe it’s meaningful; maybe it’s just a string of words and feelings that don’t make a lot of sense. Whatever ends up happening, hopefully it sets the ball rolling for some new work!
I also think it’s fun to make a collection of erasures that are pulled from the same source or have a similar theme. Here are two more from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology! Bonus points if you can guess which birds they are :^)
Now go out there and reinvent some old writing! Happy erasing!