Joolz Information Leaflet No. 12.

50 Notes For A Young Poet (or writer of any sort or of any age, really – it’s all the same, believe it or not).

Before you read further, let me state that these are simply notes; I am not a guru, a psychiatrist, a publisher, or your mother. I am not interested in the world of business or the Literary Industry. I am solely interested in creativity. You can follow these simple guidelines or not; it’s your choice. However, I am not in any way responsible for any decisions you might make regarding your writing career. However, I wish you all the luck in the world; and don’t forget, enjoy yourself.

1) Grammar. This is necessary so that your reader can fully understand the ideas, thoughts and images you want to put across. Think of it as an aid and a courtesy to your reader and an aid to yourself if you are reading your work aloud. Punctuation, or lack of it, can make or ruin a poem by altering the sense of a phrase or sentence or by making something seem odd or inappropriate. For example: were going to dance – we’re going to dance. If you are unsure (we all are sometimes, however established as writers) buy a guide to good grammar and read it.

2) Layout. This may seem unimportant but if you wish to send your work to publishers or magazines, they require it to be justified, in a plain font (Times New Roman, Ariel, Georgia etc.) and either 1.5 line spacing or double spaced, in a reasonably readable font size (this is about a 14 point, but I’m short-sighted so 12 point would be OK as well). For preference it should be done on a word processor, like this, and spell checked. NEVER send hand-written work to anyone and always keep a copy of whatever you do send. Buy a copy of The Writer’s Handbook (Macmillan). All the information you will need about publishers, agents, magazines etc., is in it and a new edition is issued every year.

3) Read as much poetry/prose as you can. In fact, read as much as you can. This is the very best way to improve your work. Read everything and anything. Just read.

4) Write about someone or something other than yourself as much as you can. For example: Unless you can guarantee that your personal experience of a broken romance can genuinely add to the sum of human knowledge about heartbreak, why do you imagine anyone else other than your friends wants to hear/read you going on about your ex-lover at length? Would you be interested in listening to/reading someone else’s poem/story/novel on that subject?

5) Write something, no matter how short, everyday.

6) Always tell the truth in your work. Never write for the approval of an audience; only for your own sense of satisfaction in your work and the Goddess (or whichever thing greater than yourself you believe in).

7) Observe. Make notes. Think. Think. Think. It’s not ‘daydreaming’ or ‘being idle’ – writers have to have time and space to just sit and think.

8) Question everything. Try to look at things from a different point of view. Never accept something because you’re been brought up to think that, or everyone says ‘that’s just the way it is’. Perhaps they’re all wrong. Perhaps they’re right. What do you think?

9) Don’t judge, record.

10) Don’t believe your own publicity.

11) Be prepared to learn new things from anyone who can teach you something, for the rest of your life.

12) Keep that fire in your belly burning forever.

13) What is beauty?

14) How do things smell, taste, feel as well as look.

15) When you look, make a genuine effort to really see. If you think that’s daft, try it.

16) Don’t take rejection by editors or critics personally. They don’t know you and in general, you don’t know them.

17) Never completely trust a journalist or TV person however pleasant and sympathetic they may seem. Their only interest is making money from you. There is no such thing as ‘off the record’.

18) Never let drink, drugs or sex become your masters; if you do, it will be the end of your creativity, forever. This isn’t a threat or an attempt at moralising, it’s the truth. Addiction and creativity do not go together because both demand your whole, undivided attention. Which will you listen to?

19) Be grateful to your friends for their love and support, but don’t believe their loving praise. Only you know if you’ve done well – or not. Listen to your heart.

20) Love what you’re doing.

21) Love life. Viva La Vida.

22) Experience everything, but let nothing control you but your creativity.

23) Never do it just for the money. Then you become a whore and like a whore’s kisses, your work becomes a lie. The money is a bonus, not a reason.

24) Don’t take yourself too seriously, but take your work completely seriously.

25) Be a perfectionist.

26) Know when to let go.

27) Learn from your failures.

28) Never give in, give up or let anyone try to make you do those things.

29) Meet jealousy and hostility with a cool demeanour; ice quenches fire.

30) Receive praise gracefully; say ‘thank you’ and leave it at that. Don’t go on about how you don’t like this or that poem or gig, because it’s not of interest to the audience member/reader who’s complimenting you. Enjoy their admiration in a quiet manner.

31) Never settle for second best.

32) All artists are temperamental. Temper, arrogance, insecurity and extremity are an artist’s inheritance; but never use your temperament to bully anyone or make anyone feel small or humiliated. That’s not temperament, it’s plain old crap and nastiness.

33) Always be polite. Manners cost nothing and will contribute towards your good reputation. A good rep is worth more than gold, it is everything to an artist.

34) Be punctual.

35) Never complain unless you really have to. If you do, be cool and calm about it. Never whinge; no-one is sympathetic to a whinger.

36) Never tell an audience member/reader/journalist anything personal you wouldn’t tell the whole world.

37) Never hide anything about your past. Secrets are corrosive. Be open and honest in all your dealings, then no one can use your secret against you.

38) Practice makes perfect.

39) Keep physically healthy; your body is necessary to carry your brain around, make sure it functions well.

40) Good luck is nice, but hard work will get you just as far in the end and one is no good without the other.

41) Know yourself.

42) Don’t beat yourself up over imagined faults; there are plenty of people out there waiting to do it for you. Be realistic and fair about yourself.

43) Be patient and persistent.

44) NEVER lose your sense of humour.

45) In youth, you have energy. In middle age, you have strength. In old age, you have wisdom. Savour all these stages of your life.

46) Never be fooled by superficial physical beauty in others. Look beneath the skin to see the soul. Then write about it.

47) Never judge a book, or anything else, by its cover.

48) If you love, you will be loved. If you fill your work with love and beauty it will be loved. If you fill it with smugness, self-satisfaction, cruelty, ego and bitterness, it may be admired by some for its ‘cleverness’, but will it be truly loved? No.

49) Never dwell in the past, always look to the future and new ideas, throughout your life.

50) Don’t worry; worrying, quite literally, NEVER SOLVED ANYTHING.

This is a Full Lunatic Production. © Joolz Denby 2011. Others in this series include: Gardening Is The New Prozac: The Good Magic Guide: Older Women Are Fabulous: Tattooing And Piercing: Creative Writing Tips: It’s OK To Be Crazy As Long As You Know You Are: Survival – A Life and Literary Workshop Guide: Living With Cats, A Survival Guide: Get Fit And Stay Fat: Home Cosmetic Hints: Rosacea – How To Cope: Groovy Spaghetti Sauce Recipes: You Have Not Been Abducted By Aliens, Honestly: Men & Women Are Only Human: The Good Goddess Guide: Why Hard Work Is Good For You: Sociology/Poetry/Art Made Simple: Life: Death.

Joolz is now a Patron of the charity IDAS - a practical, grassroots organisation helping anyone who is a victim of sexual violence in the North of England. www.idas.org.uk

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