Have you ever noticed how poetry has the ability to cut to the chase, diving directly and deeply into its subject matter?  One of the books I have still from grad school, The Therapeutic Potential of Creative Writing, subtitled the chapter on poetry and autobiographical writing as “something hatches”.  A remarkably simple phrase that truly captures the sensation we have when our poetry captures our experience.

Even if you do not have much experience writing poetry, there are a few simple “tricks of the trade” that I find makes it accessible for everyone to use.  For me, I personally find it the easiest to connect to my inner scribe after making art.  If you want to experiment with that idea, this post Healing through art and writing, can help you find a place to start.

Here are some ways to get started:

  • Practice free writing– i.e. setting a timer (start with something shorter- 5 or 10 minutes) and write whatever comes to mind, without concern for spelling or punctuation.  When you are finished, go back through and select words or phrases that appeal to you, and see if they can combine into a poem or be the kick off point for getting one started
  • Free writing with focus– this is very similar, but involves first tapping into an experience that you wish to explore through writing.  One very powerful example is getting in touch with what it was liked to be diagnosed.  Once you feel that you are in touch with the experience you have selected, follow the instructions above for free writing. For a little more guidance on getting into that frame of mind, check out the FB Live video I did with CancerGrad.
  • Try Ransom Note Poetry.  This was one of my favorite directives from grad school.  It does involve a little prep work, which is having on hand a large variety of words that are cut our from newspapers and magazines.  This can be an awesome task for when you are feeling tired and are sitting down.  Over time, you will collect a lovely little stash.  Once you have a nice collection, take a few minutes to connect to yourself, and then mull through them- selecting words that seem to call your attention.  Once you have some, play around with how they might work together, and allow your instinct to find the words that you might need to add to complete your piece.  Collage them together and/or write them down somewhere so that you can toss them back into your box.

Some of us feel drawn to the structured form of the haiku, sonnet or limerick; whereas others might prefer a free verse style that has less rules and form.  Learning to tune into ourselves and our experience helps us determine which form we might want to use on any given day.

Not only does following our creative intuition build our creative muscle, but it also comes with the added bonus of re-building a trusting relationship with our instinct once again, something that often suffers when we face cancer.  My post about self-confidence and cancer unpacks why this happens, clear here to read more.

When we connect to our creative instinct and act upon it, we are subtly working on re-building our self confidence, while receiving the gift of time and attention to the unsettled parts of our life story.  When we capture our experience in words (or whatever art form speaks to you), we are validating our experience.  Through validation from self and others, we begin the process of releasing our pain and integrating and reclaiming our identity.

– Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, and a former oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing from a life threatening illness or injury. Through Creative Transformations, Stephanie works with people in person and online to offer cancer coaching, a DIY Individual Art Therapy program to enhance any healing work you are undertaking; workshops; and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss one by visiting our website, Creative Transformations, where you will also find the links to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.