As writers, we get stuck. Plain. Simple. In the mud. Stuck. Words cease to flow from our brains to our fingertips. Whether we prefer a keyboard, pencil, or pen, the mojo dams up like the Colorado River behind Hoover Dam. There is no clicking of keys, scratching of head, or ink smears on your hand. Oh, and by the way, there are only another one thousand words to write to reach your daily goal.
Let’s set out to solve
this predicament you’re in
fast, easy, and fun.
That’s right. By limiting yourself to seventeen syllables (like the haiku you just read,) you can kick start your creative gears and return to churning out page after page of writerly goodness. While you go back and count the syllables in the poem above, (I know you are,) think about this: Anyone, I mean ANYONE, can write seventeen syllables, right? (Ha, there’s seventeen in that sentence! I’ll wait. I know you’re counting those as well.)
Amidst the moans, groans, and gnashing of teeth about “not getting haiku,” take a moment to hear me out.
First, let’s acknowledge that there are as many rules to writing haiku as years the poetry form itself has been around. Second, let’s forget all of those rules except two: 1) Three lines, 2) seventeen syllables. Period. Keep the basic structure and move forward by picking a topic. You can choose something from your work or other topic randomly unassociated.
If you’re writing crime fiction and you need a way for the bank robber to get away with the loot that isn’t already over written, give haiku a try. Something like this, maybe:
Eyes behind the mask
Looks left, right, sees sewer grate
Plugs nose and jumps down.
Which leads to:
Sludge fills up his shoes
Rats scamper all directions
Flashlight left behind.
Now your villain is stuck in the dark, poopy sludge in his shoes, rats all around and he wants to keep the money clean, which ties up one of his hands. How does he get out?
Or maybe you’re stuck on a scene that is void of emotion, but is screaming for some to carry your main character through. Work a haiku that digs deep into your heart:
Love fades with sunset
Sand castles crumble with tides
Washing away hope.
Or you want to relate to a cold-blooded killer but aren’t sure how:
Sniper in the tree
Kills enemy one by one
Write something like that and then take stock of your reaction to the words, quickly jotting down those feelings without thinking any more about them. How do they fit your character’s frame of mind? Can he/she relate to what you’ve written? Or maybe the character scoffs at your words, which gives you insight into their psyche that you hadn’t seen before.
The restriction of three lines limited to seventeen syllables forces you to be selective in your word choice while still conveying a powerful message or image. And who among us has ever used too few words in their manuscript?
The next time you find yourself stuck, or are in need of a fun exercise to get into a writing mood, think about (and then write) a haiku. This ancient poetry form can help flex your writing muscles and tighten up your word count.
Dean K Miller is the creator of the “Haiku For You Project,” a unique, in person, by request poetry event that you can book for your next business conference, class reunion, family function, wedding, or any other gathering. His first book of haiku, Sometimes the Walls Cry: A Book of Haiku and Sketch is now available on Amazon and Createspace. Visit www.thehaikuforyouproject.com and www.deankmiller.com for more information.
Dean is giving away one copy of Sometimes the Walls Cry to one randomly drawn winner from those who leave a comment below before midnight Saturday, June 4th. To order your own copy at a 20% discount, visit the Createspace book store at: https://www.createspace.com/6167375 and use the code, 2FJMW9B6 at checkout. The code is valid until June 30th. Also, if you’d like to receive a free pdf copy in exchange for an honest review, contact Dean at: deankmillerATliveDotcom.