Beating Writer’s Block: Write a Haiku or Short Poem

Write a Haiku or Short Poem

Before we really get into the nitty-gritty details of this method of beating Writer’s Block, let’s preface by saying that anyone can write a haiku or short poem. Anyone. In this instance, quality doesn’t matter as much as the actual exercise. I’d also like to suggest that this exercise works as a means of warming up before writing, for reasons you’ll see if you keep reading.

First thing’s first, we need to define the structure of the haiku or short poem you’ll write. In terms of lines, a haiku in Western writing developed towards having three. These are divided into syllable counts of five, seven and five, for a total of seventeen syllables. For the purposes of this exercise, that’s as close to a traditional haiku as we’ll go; there are other tendencies and rules that are followed, but we’re only going to need the structure.

Your short poem could have as many syllables as you like. I suggest four or five lines; follow a rhyming scheme of AABB, ABAB, or ABBA for a four-line poem, or try a Limerick for the five-line line, AABBA. These are the most simple forms of rhyming you can have, aside from the even simpler AAAA – in which every line ends with a rhyme.

Again, these are just the basics. We’re not doing a Master Class in poetry writing; we’re here to beat Writer’s Block. So, pick a topic. Any topic. Ask Twitter or Facebook friends for suggestions. (When I did this, I received, among others, the following topics for haiku: tea, jam, velociraptor, angel, fairy, college, and ‘me!’ Ask around, come up with your own, and get writing.

Pro Tip! My advice is to try to make them funny.

If you really want to play about with your immaturity, sexual innuendo is a surprisingly simple way to come up with some enjoyable haiku. Another idea is to take what you’re writing and turn it into a short poem or haiku. I did this when I was writing Balor Reborn in July 2012, and the haiku – a cirku that could be read by starting at any point in the poem – ended up on the first cover of the book. The haiku were also used as promotional tweets during the publication of the book. Those ones were kept a little tidier in terms of content.

What you should notice is that you have to think very specifically about the words you’re using. That’s the key here, and why I love writing haiku as a warm-up and to beat Writer’s Block. Your mind needs to focus on both the content of the haiku and the number of syllables in each line. I tend to write three or four in one go, because it requires that I spend longer focusing on the words that I use.

It’s a surprisingly simple way of dealing with Writer’s Block, and it’s an enjoyable shift from the norm. Most people, even people who would call themselves poets, don’t write haiku often. I try to avoid writing them just for fun, for the very reason that I depend on them as a back-up plan for when I just can’t focus on what words I’m using anymore.

When you’ve written your haiku or short poems, see if you can get back to writing your work in progress. Consider, too, sharing your work online. Twitter’s character limit is long enough for a haiku and some short poems.

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About Paul Carroll

Paul Carroll is a writer, born, raised and still living in Dublin. By day he's a student and bookseller, by night he writes fiction and uses social media.
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