Advice for writers

Ciarán Hodgers shares…

Today is the last day of the Guest Poetry Curatorship of poet Ciarán Hodgers. During December 2015 and January 2016 Ciarán has shared his knowledge and experience in poetry writing with up to 20 poets. As a final word of goodbye, Ciarán now shares some advice for aspiring writers and poets.

Ciarán, thank you for all your hard work and sharing your skills!

Advice for Writers

by Ciarán Hodgers (Guest Poetry Curator Poets’ Corner Dec 2015- Jan 2016)

Record yourself and listen back.
You’ll not like it, but get used to it. You only dislike it because it’ll sound different to the sound you hear in your head, it will sound different to other people.

No disclaimers. Ever.
This is usually disengaging. In my opinion, context should be as much as possible threaded into the poem itself. If you can do this effectively, you won’t be losing dramatic effect but indeed, adding to it. You won’t always be present when the work is being read, listened to, presented so make sure the whole package is there.

Write with intrinsic motivation.
Because you have to. Or, that you want to. Both valid, but don’t get into it for the fame or money (there is none). Write to change something, yourself or the world, don’t write for something someone else alone can give you. I don’t mean this as an indefinite, rather as a constant reminder. The ego will get in the way and there will times where you have to write for something extrinsic (money, for example) but try to keep your unique, artistic voice in it. That’ll likely be why you’ve been asked to write something in the first place.

Embrace the mistake.
The only wasted mistake is one you don’t learn from, so they’re the most important thing. If you’re not messing up, you’re not challenging yourself, not developing. In sport, there’s more points, goals and matches lost than won. That’s just how things work. Brush it off. Get over it. Get back to work.

Be organised.
There is nothing worse than an unorganised artist. If you’re serious about this, get organised and do yourself justice.

Listening is infinitely more useful than speaking.
Artists need to shut up and listen as much as athletes need fuel for playing, as much as pen’s need ink. Observation is infinitely more useful and insightful for a poet than constantly speaking, constantly exercising or making. When you do speak, be useful and/or kind. Because if it’s not one, at least it’s the other.

Find what you loathe and make it your darling.
Life has a way of being a bit of a joke, so you might as well go down laughing. In the meantime, everything that angers, saddens, burns you from the inside for whatever reason– embrace it. The conversations between you will be your best inspiration.

Consume outside your comfort zone.
Walk away from the bestsellers list and blockbusters. Move away from known genres or authors and challenge yourself to something. Read more female authors, more non-white authors, more translations. You don’t eat one colour food, why would you consume one kind of artwork?

Shake the Habitual
Find out what it is you do, habitually, in your work, and shake it up. Challenge and question yourself, challenge this list, challenge why you want to write in the first place, challenge the greats and their masterpieces, challenge the worst thing you’ve ever read and see the genius in it.

Network in your sleep
As an artist, you are a brand. Like it or not. Don’t be afraid to meet new people, reach out online and use things like social media, mailing lists, job and opportunity alerts to let you know when there’s opportunities going that you can use. Find them online, find their business partners and colleagues. Companies are constantly trying to advertise – they shouldn’t be too difficult to find online.