Letting Yourself Be Surprised by Your Writing

speckled_eagle_owlNo surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader. – Robert Frost

One of the great pleasures of writing is that you learn things about yourself and the way you think that you might not otherwise uncover. Former U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner, Ted Kooser has a real gift for pulling together really unexpected images and ideas in his poems. His poems are complex and elegant while still being very accessible. Here’s one of his poems that certainly surprised me and probably surprised him as well.

Etude by Ted Kooser

I have been watching a Great Blue Heron
fish in the cattails, easing ahead
with the stealth of a lover composing at letter,
the hungry words looping and blue
as they coil and uncoil, as they kiss and sting.

Let’s say that he holds down an everyday job
in an office. His blue suit blends in.
Long days swim beneath the glass top
of his desk, each one alike. On the lip
of each morning, a bubble trembles.

No one has seen him there, writing a letter
to a woman he loves. His pencil is poised
in the air like the beak of a bird.
He would spear the whole world if he could,
toss it and swallow it whole.

WRITING EXERCISE: Using the poem above as inspiration pick as your writing prompt a scene you see out the window or an event you witnessed or an experience you had during the day. Just start writing about it and see where it leads you. Often we don’t know why a story is really calling to us to write it until we are well into the process. The best writing comes from a willingness to be surprised.

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