I just realized that almost nothing rhymes with Denver (#poetprobs), so let me try again:

My city must not catch on fire.

We're already down to the wire.

It's hot, and it's dry.

Poor Denver, says I,

Has reason enough to perspire. 

(A good chunk of Colorado, including Denver, is under a red-flag warning today. Check off one more for Apocalypse Bingo, and if you're in the area, maybe hold off on any barbecues or s'more roastings.)

As silly as that limerick is, I think it's better than the last one I wrote. But which one turns out more profitable has yet to be determined.

See, during my teacher training, I took an international relations class. Several periods involved a game called the Nation Simulation. The class split up into teams, and each team became a fictional country with a whole smorgasbord of tasks, disputes, and difficulties to finish themselves or resolve with the other countries.

According to the instructions for my team's country (Holy Zott), our people highly valued their religion, part of which was to make a pilgrimage to a certain holy site every year. That site was run by two of the other countries, including one that Holy Zott had had hostile relations with for some time. At the beginning of the simulation, we learned that the two countries had recently decided to start charging fees to our pilgrims. Naturally, we Zottites weren't happy about that.

Each country also had a collection of secrets that could help or hinder us in the simulation. One of Holy Zott's secrets was that if we could devise a creative method to show how we felt about the fees, we'd receive extra points. Knowing the power of poking fun at people, I decided to get goofy and wrote this:

There once were two countries we shan't name  

Who decided they would play a rude game.

They demanded we pay

To walk pilgrims' ways—

Now, really, they should be ashamed!

I made bookmarks out of this poem and handed them out to everyone at our next class. When I gave one to our professor, Dr. "G.," he burst out laughing. Then he informed me that a writer for the New York Times does something similar by writing limericks about political issues. Dr. "G." thought my poem was so funny that he doubled the points for our reward, saying limericks were worth that.

I felt rather clever. 😁

Sometimes when we feel stuck on a piece, our problem might be the form rather than the content. For example, my current work-in-progress started as a screenplay. After years of work, I just couldn't seem to figure out the structure (even after reading Save the Cat!). When I shared my frustrations with my writing group, my friends suggested writing out the entire story as a novel and then figuring out what parts were most important to include in the screenplay.

I resisted for a long time, but I recently started working on the novelization in earnest. And that process has helped me solve some stubborn problems with the story, get more-concrete ideas about certain characters, and address some unhelpful habits in my writing. Maybe a novel structure was actually the best choice for this story all along. We'll see.

If you're having trouble with a piece of your own, try temporarily putting it into a form you wouldn't typically use, just to see what happens. I think rhythmic forms of writing, such as poetry, work especially well to shake up our brains. Reading usually engages just the sense of sight, but rhythm can engage our hearing and, if we move to the beat, our proprioceptive (sense of where our body is in space) and vestibular (balance) senses. You could try rapping a research paper or turning a short story into a sonnet, for example.

Of course, you may not want to submit or publish your work in the new format. A supervisor probably won't be impressed if you, say, turn in an epic poem when they asked you for a report. But by briefly letting go of your ideas about what your piece should be like and approaching it from an unusual angle, you open your mind to new possibilities that can help you get unstuck.

And if that doesn't work, I'm here to help. After all, I come from a family in which anything is an excuse to spontaneously burst into song, so I'm pretty good at making up lyrics on the spot. 😉 Click here to book a call with me so we can get you unstuck, back in your groove, and back to writing!

Write on,


(Thanks to Nate Greno for sharing their work on Unsplash.)