What Amanda Gorman Can Teach You About Writing

Image for postBy Shawn Miller — https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2021/01/amanda-gorman-selected-as-president-elect-joe-bidens-inaugural-poet/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=99053911

I, like many others, sat in utter awe as Gorman walked up the podium to perform her poem The Hill We Climb. Her utilization of simple language and constant repetition and metaphor mesmerized me. And as reports came out later of how she struggled with a speech impediment that made it difficult for her to say “poetwy,” I instantly began to look for everything Gorman had ever said about writing to try to inspire myself, inspire you.

Know your audience

Gorman had been halfwaythrough the process of writing her poem, after finding she was chosen to write it in late December of 2020, when thousands of angry Trump supporters stormed the White House, vandalizing and looting a building so completely representative of our nation’s history. Since then, much has made of the storming of our nation’s capital, most of it negative, righteously so, but Gorman chose to derive a different message from it.

In an interview with ITV News, Gorman said this was when she knew she wanted to write a poem so incredibly imbued with hope as if it were a syrup dripping from the words she wrote down.

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope and unity and feeling. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write, and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear.”

Gorman has been performing poems for a while, which has made her incredibly good at pathos, a persuasive technique used to evoke and elicit certain feelings in the audience. Whether it be anger or hope, pity or elation, Gorman is very adept at using her words to make the audience feel.

Her utilization of simple metaphors like braving the belly of the beast to sitting under the fig tree call to feelings that Americans in quarantine have felt more and more strongly as COVID-19 has only expanded its hold on the world. They are metaphors anyone can understand, and everyone feels.

She also repeats many sentiments she wants to make clear, calling, for example, the nation “unfinished” and “far from polished” and “a country bruised but whole.” And while this may seem incredibly simplistic, it gets the job done — it conveys the feelings it needs to to the audience.

Write what you’re most afraid of

In an interview with 826NYC, she said,” sometimes we don’t emancipate ourselves to write what we know.” She cited being afraid to write about her struggles and her experience with being a low-income black woman with a disability.

She said her first stories were about white women, until she later realized there was something so incredibly impactful about writing about her experience as a black girl, about telling the poems she, and the world, needed to hear.

So dare to write a story about someone who looks like you, someone who’s had to deal with what you’re dealing, someone who’s seen what you’ve seen, and it will make your stories all the more interesting and immensely important. It will strengthen your community, bring the world together.

“Writing as a form of healing, as a form of community-building, is where the emphasis should be first, and I think it’s in times where we feel physically remote and distant that writing can both bring us together but also reveal the blessings about being alone.”

Think about MLK and O. Henry both writing some of their most famous works in jail — MLK with his searing and beautiful letter about racial injustice, and O. Henry fourteen of his most famous short stories. Think about Anne Frank, who kept a journal to escape from the unbearable life she was in.

Write what you’re excited about

Later in this gem-filled interview, she talks of being told that her poems didn’t need to rhyme, causing her to shift toward a different type of writing, until she realized poems that rhymed excited her the most, were what made her thrilled to write. And so, of course, she went back to it, lending toward one of the main reasons so many love her poems.

This can be taken, of course, as a message to not surrender to the writing rules and guidelines that many will attempt to impose on you. One always writes for themselves, and so whatever style excites them before anyone else, is the one that must be used.

This also extends toward anything about writing, or life in general. Live life they way that excites you, that calls toward you, that has your best interests in mind, and you will be all the better for it.

Develop your writing routine

While a sentiment echoed by many others, it is no doubt one of the most important for any aspiring writers. As she says in the interview,” you have to create a routine and a willingness that is conducive to you creating in all types of scenarios.”

Make it a habit to pick up the pen or pencil or keyboard every day and just write — don’t restrict yourself to a daily word count if it doesn’t excite you, never make the process of writing a burden. You are doing this for yourself. As the sentiment goes, write like nobody’s watching — because nobody’s watching.

Try to consume everything around you, every nugget of culture or dialogue or beauty that you find in the world. Write down conversations you hear, metaphors you think of, sentiments you want to explore. Not everything you need to write needs to be a great work of literature.

“Putting your pen to paper — that is enough. You have to be okay with sitting down and recognizing that you’re not trying to write something great in this moment, you’re trying to write, and the greatness will come in itself from that.”

Conclusion

Amanda Gorman’s writing prowess is one built by constant routine and dare to fight to make her voice heard, and so I hope this article, if nothing else, urged you to do the same.

As she said in her TED Talk,” If I choose not to speak out of fear, then there’s no one that my silence is standing for.”

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