How to Find Inspiration for Your Next Poem from Unexpected Places

Lessons on how to find inspiration

Gregory D. Welch
Oct 7, 2020 · 4 min read

Living the lockdown life, I don’t get to travel like I used to. Sure, I get to go to the grocery store, but that’s about it. No adventures, unless you count the very act of living — and breathing — in this chaotic year.

But not the adventures I miss the most. I used to love to hop in the car, take a drive. And when I could afford it, I’d take a short road trip to somewhere not too far away, but still just far enough. I got a lot of inspiration from these trips.

Poetry is just that, a stack of lines that at their best haunt the reader. The words don’t just sit casually, they linger. They rattle some chains. They sit up and ask you to pay attention to them.

Thankfully, I live in a rural community. I get to take daily walks and have plenty of things to see. This has proven to be a saving grace for someone like me who misses that special call of the open road and the muse of passing miles.

Living the quiet life, tucked between Kentucky hills, isolated from the rhythms of my old life, I still find things to be inspired by. But, even the most inspirational sights can become less than inspiring after so much frequency. So, how do I cope with this? How do I keep coming up with ideas for poetry?

Start with just one good line

Many of my poems start with one line that gets its hooks in me and just won’t let go. It’s a phrase or a tumble of words or, better still, my attempt to describe something I’ve seen or experienced.

Poetry is just that, a stack of lines that at their best haunt the reader. The words don’t just sit casually, they linger. They rattle some chains. They sit up and ask you to pay attention to them.

This almost always starts with the power of a single line that grows into several others. It’s not always the first line or the last line, and not always the popular Hemingway “…truest sentence that you know.”

These are lines that you can’t let go of. These are the ones you have to plant, and over time turn into what might become a poem and tend to for a little while to see what happens. These are your best attempts to capture moments, feel your emotions a little deeper, and to try and get at the reason behind things

I’ve found that even during a lockdown and seeing more or less the same sights each day, the power of a single line to try and capture something of the essence of that is often enough to branch out and form a whole poem.

Every day is a collection of lines if you stop and look a little closer.

Quotes that stand out

No matter how often I recommend reading, it’s still not enough. If you want to write the kind of poetry that truly stands out, you have to read the kind of poetry that really stands out. It’s the best way to learn the craft, the art, and to develop the disciplines required.

More than this though, reading is a great opportunity to find the quotes that can inspire you too. Whether it’s a line or some wisdom tucked into a passage, you never know when a powerful quote is going to pop out at you and what that quote might lead you to write next.

The things we read become the Muse we’re often so hungry to meet. Let the ideas in, explore the passages that stand out, and pay attention to what gets a reaction from you. The inspiration you’re seeking is in all of that and more.

Poetry prompts

I’m a big fan of poetry prompts. I like to take them and mix together a whole bunch of random ones to inspire some new ideas altogether. I don’t always use them word for word or even idea for idea.

Sometimes the prompt itself can inspire another sort of “prompting” for my writing. Ideas feed ideas.

It’s fun taking several prompts and gluing them together to see what kind of poetry can come from it. It’s almost like a challenge. Seeing how you can make something your own, finding fresh ideas in these unexpected places.

Conclusion

Sure, things are tough all around, and inspiration is no different. But I like to think the best way to summon your Muse is by showing up to the work regardless of inspiration.

Sometimes, all you need is one good line to get you going, and you can often find this in the things you’re already reading, listening to, watching, or doing.

When that doesn’t work, turn to reliable poetry prompts, and make them your own.

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Gregory D. Welch

Written by

Kentucky poet & scribbler. Multipotentialite interested in lifestyle design for creatives. Need a coach or have a project for me? linkedin.com/in/gdwelch

The Brave Writer

The next generation of writers breaking barriers together.

Gregory D. Welch

Written by

Kentucky poet & scribbler. Multipotentialite interested in lifestyle design for creatives. Need a coach or have a project for me? linkedin.com/in/gdwelch

The Brave Writer

The next generation of writers breaking barriers together.

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