inspired by hope of a beautiful future

Yesterday I wrote about taking joy in the past and present through being thankful for the beauty I see. Today I write about future joys.

The future is hazy.

I can look forward to things, but I can never be sure exactly what they will be like when I actually come to them. This doesn’t stop me from dreaming. I’m very future focused. I like looking forward almost too much. Sometimes I get so lost in what could be that I lose sight of what is.

My habits in the present will shape the future if I don’t allow my hopes for the future to shape the present. In order to create the future that I hope to walk into, I must make small changes to the present.

If I can bring the future I hope for into the present, I can change my life.

For example, in order to become a sweet grandmotherly lady rather than a crotchety old woman, I must choose to be kind and compassionate today. If I want to be a certain person in the future, the only way to do so is to be that kind of person in the present.

And so, I allow my hopes and dreams of a beautiful future to inspire me today.

{today’s exercise}

When you look toward the beautiful future, what do you see? Whether it is a small thing you know you can expect or a big thing you feel crazy for hoping for, write a poem about something you look forward to.

{my process and my poem}

In a couple of months my sister will drive a thousand miles from our hometown to come live with me for a while. I look forward to her coming with eager anticipation!

Counting down the weeks
will turn to counting down the days
will turn to counting down the hours
as the leaves turn color
and the season turns cold
as the day draws near that you
will draw near to me and I
will draw you close to hold you
really hold you in my arms.


thankful for...

The world is full of beauty — why do we so often choose to focus on the ugly? I could try to answer that question for you, but I’m not going to, because that would be focusing on the negative. Instead, I choose to focus on the positive.

There are hundreds if not thousands of beautiful things around me from the mug of tea steeping on the table to the memory of the friend who came over to read with me this morning. Some are concrete, some more abstract. All are visible if I choose to see them.

Today I choose to see them.

{today’s exercise}

Make a list of things you’re thankful for. You can stop there, or you can choose one line that stands out to you and write a poem surrounding that single concept. Write words and phrases that are as expressive as the emotions they inspire.

{my process and my poem}

This morning as I write, I reflect not only on the many things I’m thankful for that surround me in the present, but also the memories of the road trip I took this past week and a half. This is the beauty I see:

  • the welcoming arms of a once-stranger turned family
  • being appreciated
  • home-cooked meals after time on the road
  • strong arms holding me up when I’m too weak to stand
  • grace and favor pulling me out of depression and fear
  • a wife helping her husband pull off an epic event
  • two beautiful people leading their six sons into a passion-filled creative life
  • foot massage after too much standing
  • baby smiles and peek-a-boo
  • meeting the people behind the internet profiles
  • life-changing conversations about what drives us to create
  • playing a new game with new friends and old after dinner
  • a beautiful garden of relationships growing and blooming

teach what you know

One of the best ways to internalize what you are learning is to teach it to someone else. Teaching doesn’t have to be complicated — simply sharing what you think about something you’ve learned helps to solidify it in your mind.

It can be tempting to think that putting yourself out there as a teacher is begging for attention, but the truth is that teaching is a gift to your students. When you teach why you know, you’re sharing what you’ve been given.Take the focus off of yourself and focus on what you can provide for the people you could teach.

Teach what you know even if you think it’s not much.

If you know more than one other person, you can teach.
Don’t wait until you’re an expert — what is an “expert” anyway?
Teach what you know now.
Don’t worry about who else might teach better.
There is someone out there who will learn better from you because of your particular perspective.
Don’t worry that you won’t teach it well.
Put yourself out there so that through teaching you might welcome someone new into the joy of the learning process.

{today’s exercise}

Find someone you can teach: a friend or family member who knows a little less than you do about writing poetry. Share something that you’ve learned about your own poetry-writing process through this #31poems series. You could have them read your favorite post from my blog, but don’t stop there. Share your personal perspective too. Teach them what you’ve learned through writing poetry this month. Encourage them to write a poem.

{my process and my students’ poems}

As for me, this whole month has been about teaching poetry-writing. Thank you for being a part of it. I love to teach and to see people grow in their skills, especially when they find themselves going above and beyond what they would have thought themselves capable of.

Nine-year-old Joshua and his mom have both been writing poetry in response to the exercises I’ve been sharing this month. Here are a couple of poems they’ve written.

When the Babies Slept
By Mom

The sun sets
The day is done
I rock and sing
My baby to sleep.

I say to my little ones
"You can play more tomorrow!"
I lay in the dark scratching little backs
As my babies sleep.

Whispered prayers and tears,
"God, bless my precious children!"
Watching in wonder
As my babies sleep.

So tired myself
But chores await
Hurry and get things done
As my babies sleep.

Another day has come
Children now grown
Time passed so fast
As my babies slept!

Sabbath Rest
By Joshua, age 9

A time to relax
And thank God for the days
That he has given you
That you may have rest, peace and quiet
So that you can unwind
And be ready for the next day.

music and poetry

Poetry is an art form that evokes emotion — how much more so when paired with other evocative art forms? Illustrated poetry, for example, has a certain expressive quality that simple words do not. Putting poems to music is another way to make words more expressive.

Likewise, poetry can add depth to other art forms. A painting accompanied by a poem can resonate even more strongly than the painting alone. And a song with words put to the melody connects the listener and the composer in a singular way.

Creativity breeds more creativity. Let the art forms bleed into each other and inspire growth as you explore them.

{today’s exercise}

Choose a song that makes you feel deeply. If you have trouble deciding on one, ask a friend to help. Listen to the song a couple of times, then respond to it with a poem. If the poem has words, see day 24 of #31poems for some tips regarding responding to other people’s words.)

{my process and my poem}

I chose the song Sailboat by Ben Rector. Two lines in particular stood out to me: “The only change I see, lost or found at sea, the only difference is believing I’ll make it in,” and “God knows what I’m headed toward.”

I’m on a sailboat
trapped, water surrounding me
water surrounding me with beauty
alone in the silence
enjoying the peace of solitude
insecure, unsure of where I’m drifting
drifting along, excited to see where I end up
no oars to fight the direction the wind takes me
blessed surrender, carried along by the wind
who knows what I’m headed toward?
God knows where I’m going
exposed to the elements
soaking in the mist and the breeze


how to find inspiration for writing poetry

Inspiration is always within reach.

There is no lack of inspiration for those who are willing to open their eyes. What are your surroundings like today? Take a moment to tune into all of your senses. Notice the sights and sounds, sensations and emotions, tastes and smells. There is plenty around you to inspire you. The trouble is choosing your focus and beginning to create.

You can’t think outside of the box if there is no box.

Constraints breed creativity. Narrowing your focus broadens your perspective because you’re able to see more clearly. Writing prompts, for example, are helpful because they box you in just enough to let you think outside the box. That’s when inspiration blossoms.

{today’s exercise}

Pick up the closest book and turn to page 20. The first full sentence on the page is your inspiration for today’s poem. Perhaps you integrate that sentence into your poem verbatim. Maybe one of the words sparks the inspiration. If you don’t like the sentence, write about the opposite or about your frustration! It matters less how you are inspired by the sentence and more that you choose to be inspired by some element of it.

{Mr. Wood’s process and his poem}

After all this talk, I could not catch a spark of inspiration to actually write my poem. Mr. Wood was nearby and he sat, looked at my quote, and practiced what I preached.

This is the quote that I found: “Yes, there must be deep, thorough, and long preparation if there is to be reality.”

His process, in his words:
“I saw that my friend was struggling to write, struggling to put words to inspiration, and I committed myself to finding a spark just as she’d directed — I’m not double-dipping since I am not doing these exercises every day, so I was comfortable submitting something for her to use.

The first line is a paraphrase of her words to me when I walked over, and the next three lines grew from that: They came naturally as both self-directed answer and a continuation of the opening question so the neat double-meaning of the words excited me. I then thought about what she had been like, and the word foundering came to my mind like a ship, so I drew a nautical simile and several others which I knew were close and dear to her heart: infants, heartbeats, letting go and pinning things down; I changed a few words so that the poem took the shape of a wave too! I liked how it naturally evoked calm as it settled from longer lines to shorter so I did very little in editing and left out a good deal of punctuation so that it would read smoothly and the reader was free to interpret things openly and wonder about the poem, especially the opening double-meaning.

I bridged the gaps to end with the quote-of-the-day, since there was a neat twist in meaning from this starscape of theoretical, inward-drawn space out to the declaration of reality. The quote is a lot like this process, creating, so I thought it served as a fine capstone.”

how am I to take an empty page
scatter my soul across it
dig into my heart
a garden of words
rip them up like mussels
clinging to a wave-worn rock
wrestle the infants together
inject them full of heartbeats
line them up so neatly
launch them up
in the face of experience
to grasp for me tomorrow
and sometimes to complete today
as I pin them like bugs
eternal as memory
on the wall
yes
there must be deep
thorough
long preparation if there is to be
reality