Taking the Notes
One thing I like to suggest is writing in notebooks with lined paper, then completely disrespecting those lines. Write wildly, like a child, for whatever we can do to strip away the various structures built to corral our attentions is important to this particular process of note-taking where we hope to find ourselves completely present and not troubled over lines on paper and other concerns we have been trained to obey.
Our internal editor is one we have built upon since we first learned to communicate, reaching for the milk, the shiny earring, the hovering gull, eventually learning the tools for constructing proper syntax, the uses of punctuation, etc. Our internal editors are invaluable for shaping our poems, but they do get in the way of these raw notes we write inside the ritual. When taking notes, as soon as the mind forms full sentences, or follows a thread of an idea, write faster. We have the ability to outrun the internal editor, to fully trust ourselves in the middle of the ritual, and to arrive at that moment where all rebuke over words and their customs falls away. It is here where we can cruise into the previously unimagined magical writing we had concealed from ourselves.
Sometimes when attempting to write ahead of our editor we get caught in mind loops, thought and language patterns that keep circling around on themselves. Here are three tools for breaking out of mind loops:
1) Inhale coffee beans or grounds. This recalibrates the olfactory and can jolt us out of a mind loop we find ourselves caught inside while writing.
2) If the coffee does not work stare straight ahead at an immobile object and flick the tip of your nose with your finger. Do it just hard enough that it disrupts your visual pattern. This often helps release us to go back to writing.
3) If your mind loop is pernicious and not wanting to let go of you, then stand up and wildly thrash-dance, especially kicking your legs in the air as high as you can. This always works.
Shaping the Poem
NOTE: It is important to do this next phase in one sitting.
Take your handwritten notes to a computer and open a writing document, Word or whatever software you use for writing. Click on the document to make certain it is ready to be used, then shut the screen light all the way off; this is to preclude our need to be watchful for typos. Position your fingers on the keys, have your feet flat, then close your eyes and type as fast as you can for five minutes, and same rules apply as with the handwritten notes: as soon as the mind forms full sentences, or follows a thread of an idea, type faster.
At the end of the five minutes of blind speed-typing, turn the screen light back on, then begin transferring the handwritten notes where you left off with the speed-typing. In other words this is better when it is one unbroken document. When you reach the midway point of the handwritten notes, shut the screen light back off, and repeat the steps for blind speed-typing. I usually earmark the midway page ahead of time, make an X or checkmark. When the blind speed-typing is complete, turn the light back on and transfer the remaining half of your handwritten notes. When this is finally finished turn the screen light off and repeat the speed-typing once again.
The blind speed-typing will expand the notes for the poem. The first bout of it unleashes whatever language we have stored in us at the moment. The second and especially the third times are after we have been rereading and transferring our handwritten notes, our memories tripped over and over with images of the experience of doing the ritual. These bouts of the blind speed-typing tend to enrich and compound the notes in ways that often hold unexpected, crucial language for the poem.
Print out two copies of this chaotic looking document. Hide one from yourself for a month. The other carry with you wherever we go with a highlighter pen, marking favorite nuggets of writing for the poem. These pieces can then be culled by copying and pasting them into a new document to begin shaping the poem. It all starts to come together on its own at this stage, awakening the internal editor to help build the poem. The second copy you hid from yourself for a month can be taken out of hiding and read backwards: last word typed is the first word read and first word typed is the last word read. Reading the document backwards often uncovers completely new ways into the poem we would have not seen otherwise.