• Adriana Cloud on Bad Poetry, Inspiration and Reading Everything

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 10 comments

    TL;DR version: We’ve hired another talented writing consultant, London’s very own Adriana Cloud. In her Q&A, Adriana talks about bad high school poetry, writing through a lack of inspiration, and reading outside of the genre you’re working in. These are the things I want us to discuss this week. See the bolded “Your turn” sections for discussion questions.


    As you will have noticed if you regularly look for updates to our website — which, why wouldn’t you?! — we’ve taken on yet another talented writing consultant, Adriana Cloud. Adriana lives in London but received her M.F.A. at Emerson College in Boston, where she also worked for Harvard University Press and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Her chapbook is titled Instructions for Building a Wind Chime.

    Today I want us to discuss a few topics drawn from Adriana’s Q&A, which you can read here.


    On Teen Angst

    Asked how she got her start as a writer, Adriana says, “I wrote a lot of bad poetry in high school (who doesn’t, right?).”

    Your turn: Did you write a lot of bad poetry in high school? More importantly, are you brave enough to share some of that poetry with us in the comments below?


    On Discipline & Inspiration

    Asked what is the most difficult thing about writing, Adriana says, “It’s definitely the discipline to keep writing even when I don’t feel like it. My excuse is always that I’m waiting to feel inspired, but sometimes we don’t have the luxury to wait for inspiration. We have to do the work anyway, and trust in the process.”

    I love this answer. I’ve always been prone to the “waiting for the muse to strike” excuse, but I’m working on it.

    Your turn: Are you able to write even when you don’t feel like it, or do you use a lack of inspiration as a reason not to do the work? When you’re not in the mood to write, what tactics do you use to get your butt in the chair anyway?


    Read Everything

    “Read outside your genre” is Adriana’s best bit of advice for aspiring writers. “Read everything, and especially things that are different from the kind of thing you are trying to write.”

    I don’t follow this advice very often. I’ve been working on a novel about blue-collar workers in the Midwest, and while doing so have been reading as many stories and novels I can find about blue-collar workers in the Midwest. I’m also writing a book about baseball, during which I’ve been reading books about baseball.

    Perhaps I ought to shake it up a little and add some poetry to the mix, or some so-called genre fiction. It’s never a bad idea to read as widely as you possibly can.

    Your turn: When you’re working on a project, do you take pains to read work from outside your genre, or like me, do you take pains to read work from inside that genre? What do you think are some of the pros and cons of doing either?


    Let us know your thoughts on these questions in the comments below.

    If you’re interested in working with Adriana Cloud, request a free consult with Justine today to discuss your project and your options.


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and writes about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2016 writing project that you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coaching, private instruction and writer’s block counseling services. Join our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    John Liebling

    I like to rhyme, as you know all too well. My confidence kicked in much later in life. I did not write poetry in high school or college. Reading book of choice was always biographies – be they historical or sports related. Romance novels are not my cup of tea and would, do – resist reading them because my time is precious. As a creative exercise, I would be open to other genres. We all read for different reasons. To escape from reality, angst of adulthood or getting a good chuckle. Some of us also read to build our base… Read more »

    Andrew Davis

    Songs are poetry I suppose. That’s what I wrote in high school, bad songs. I can’t remember many of the lyrics, but I imagine they were bits of the usual defiant teenage nonsense cobbled together into some form conducive for screaming. It is probably for the best that they remain lost to mankind forever. I am of the generation who associated themselves with the word grunge for whatever reason. I read from all angles, and I am confident that no matter what genre I am reading it will be helpful to my writing in some way. It does not hurt… Read more »

    Mel Daniels

    I write historical fiction, so when I’m working on a novel
    I’ll read nonfiction about that time period. So it’s sort of
    outside but also inside the genre. Before I start on a novel
    I’ll read similar novels about that time period. Most of which
    I’ve usually already read anyway.

    Jon Sommers

    I get my butt in the chair just through berating myself into it, when I don’t feel like writing. I know I’ll feel guilty later if I don’t do it, so that’s a motivator. But most of the time I actually do feel like writing, so it’s not an issue very often. Are you able to write even when you don’t feel like it, or do you use a lack of inspiration as a reason not to do the work? When you’re not in the mood to write, what tactics do you use to get your butt in the chair… Read more »

    Emily Martin

    I’m sure I wrote bad poetry in high school; I also wrote exposition in a weird, poetic, thesaurus-happy way and thought it sounded brilliant. Good times. I usually like to write, but here’s my current dilemma–between work and kid schedules, I can either write or edit the manuscript that I have some hopes in publishing or help edit a friend’s manuscript because she’s also returning the favor to me. So, I usually end up editing and feeling guilty that I didn’t really “write.” As for reading, I read mostly in my genre (YA) to identify voice and technique and evaluate… Read more »

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