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Monthly Archives: March 2019

Permission to Break Rules

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blackout writing erased
Blackout Poetry…

What? Poetry? Eek, let me run!

If that’s what you are saying, hang in for just a sec. I know poetry scares the heck out of many people. Writing it scares them even more.

But this activity does three things:

  1.  You rediscover the wicked awesome feeling of breaking self-imposed rules and ideally bring that into the rest of your life.
  2. You discover you actually can explore writing poetry and in the process have a curious self-discovery aha moment.
  3. You awaken an appreciation of poetry, for those of you who’ve not really had that experience yet.

The image is a little inspiration for you – blackout poetry created by a few writer friends who joined me yesterday at Squilax Hostel for a writer’s retreat day. Each of us had our unique approach; from simply ‘blacking’ out words to highlight the chosen ones; to writing the chosen words onto the page; to decorating with felts and images. Our poetry also includes writing in words that weren’t on the page and glueing words from other pages when we needed them.

There simply are no rules. However, I’ve noted in workshops where I’ve introduced blackout poetry,  it takes a lot of encouragement to help people understand this. They struggle with trying to make something ‘poetic.’  They’re surprised that they don’t have to use just the words on the page – that they can add words from elsewhere, or simply write in words that are missing. It takes a few minutes of encouragement but once they realize they can do anything, it’s amazing to see their energy lighten up, their eyes sparkle and their creativity blossom.

The clincher that gets people inspired? Affirming over and over that THERE ARE NO RULES.  Our minds so often go first to things like: Am I supposed to do it this way? What’s the right way to do this? I don’t want to do it wrong. (This is also true in making life choices.)

Once given permission to break rules (self-imposed or otherwise), it’s like the mind and soul are ignited. Creativity leaps up yelling “Yay! I get to play!”  and wondrous discoveries happen. (This is also true in making life choices, by the way.)

The How-to’s of Blackout Poetry:

  • Take a page from any book or magazine. (If wrecking a book is against your principles, please know that I, as an author, would be proud to donate pages of my book to your blackout poetry. Or, go to your used book store and ask what books are going to the dump. Yup. That happens. You can give that old book new life)
  • Lightly circle words that stand out as you scan the page. Leave these words visible as you ‘black out’  the other words or create a design that highlights your choice words into a poem.

Seems so simple, yes? It is. A simple thoughtful process. Self discovery and poetry can be this simple, this mindful, and this profound.

Hell, you could even make origami cranes out of the paper leaving a couple meaningful words visible.  No rules, after all!


I’d be so happy if you would share your blackout poetry here. Or even share what the process was like for you, if you are shy to share the image!  In fact, let me encourage you. If you share in the comments, I’ll do a draw for some cool prize. (Maybe my book, so you can turn it into black out poetry. Ideally, you read it first. It’s quite good. ~shameless promotion~)


The get together yesterday was to test out Squilax Hostel’s potential for writing retreats. We all agreed it’s a very unique and inspiring location. Besides poetry, we all worked on other writing projects, plus we had tummies full of good food and coffee.

I’m excited to plan future retreats! Are you interested?

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