Writing Tip by Ching-In Chen

Photo by Sarah Grant

Write Against Yourself

I’m attracted to routine — the daily act of sitting down with my cup of tea and my attempt at cultivating a daily writing practice.   But I easily revert back to writing poems that feel like a familiar place where I might be turning around in a circle over and over again without much new to say.   Sometimes I only notice this when I pay attention to the patterns in my work — to the words, images and phrasing I return to again and again.

Find a writing buddy.   Take ten minutes to describe your writing to your buddy – characteristic trademark moves, what defines your writing — and share a few pieces of your work (enough so your buddy can form an independent opinion).   Have your buddy create a writing prompt that goes against the grain of what is comfortable for you (the prompt should include at least three suggestions).   For instance, if you normally write very long, flowing sentences that comprise a narrative, your buddy could give you the directive to write in short, compressed imagistic fragments (or try your hand at the haiku form, for instance).  You’ll be surprised at what may emerge!

Biography of Ching-In Chen: Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart’s Traffic (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press).  The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she is a Kundiman, Macondo and Lambda Fellow.   A community organizer, she has worked in the Asian American communities of San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston.


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