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Write a poem that begins a negative and ends with a positive – 31p31d

Day 20 of 31 Poems in 31 Days

The Other Kind of Stress

Poets can be a sensitive lot. In a way, that’s what poets are known for. Unfortunately, it can be a poet’s undoing. Writer’s block, in most cases, is simply a lack of confidence. A person gets so wrapped up in negative self talk, that no matter what they put on the page, it never seems good enough. When it reaches the point that the poet can no longer put words on the page at all, it has become a severe problem. Try to recognize when you are being overly self critical. Here are some ways that all people, including poets, sabotage themselves. Please note that I am adapting material from Walt Schafer’s book, Stress Management for Wellness.

Negativising: Focusing only on the negative aspects of a situation. For example, if someone reads your poem and has mostly positive things say, but you focus only on the criticism, you are negativising.

Awfulizing: Focusing too much on a problem or obstacle until you build it up into a disaster. For example, you decide you can’t write today because you can’t find your favorite pen and without that, you won’t produce anything good.

Catastrophizing: This is when you go into a situation expecting the worst. For example, you decide not to submit your poems to a poetry magazine because you “already know they are going to turn you down.”

Ovegeneralizing: This is when you take a single negative event or piece of data and apply it to a much larger situation. For example, if you write a bad poem, you decide that you must have “lost it” and you might as well give up. Plenty of good poems get written right after bad poems.

Minimizing: This is when you downgrade praise or an accomplishment. For example, if you get published by that magazine you thought would never publish you, you decide that it must have been a fluke or they didn’t get very many submissions.

Perfectionism: Setting impossibly high standards for yourself or for a situation. For example, deciding that you have to have the perfect word to finish a line and you can’t move forward until that word comes to you.

There are other ways to sabotage yourself but I think you get the point. Don’t focus on the negative aspects of your writing. Its good to want to improve, but don’t paralyze yourself with unreasonable expectations or poor self image. Just write.

Today’s Poetry Assignment

Write a poem that begins with a negative image or statement and ends with a positive image or statement.

Today’s Featured Poet

Sherman Alexie is a Native American poet, novelist and stand-up comedian. He is a prolific writer who probably doesn’t know the meaning of the words “writer’s block”.

Books of Poetry


  1. Camping in Lower Scorpion

    It was a disaster

    The plan
    (and I do so love and need one!)
    was to find a hotel for night one;
    buy provisions for camping, night two

    But we were driving
    and driving endlessly
    through the middle of scenic

    Not a hotel, restaurant, or grocery store
    anywhere In sight
    which was becoming harder to see
    in the growing dark

    Campsites were abundant
    and abundantly full

    I kept reminding him
    agitation growing
    that we were camping on night two

    He kept reminding me
    agitation growing
    that there was nothing else for hours
    and we’d have to make do

    I criticized

    His (lack of) planning
    His map reading skills
    even his devotion to me

    As if it needed to be said out loud
    I declared
    “I am not happy!”

    Brakes slamming, he turned on me

    “Oh yeah? Well here’s a newsflash for you –
    it is not my sole purpose in life to make you happy!”

    Petulant child I became
    dramatically swept my arms
    across our circumstantial landscape

    More dramatically responded
    “Well, OBVIOUSLY!”

    And just like that
    we laughed
    perhaps even leaning toward hysterical
    but still better than welling, wallowing anger

    We set up camp
    in the last available site
    right next to the parking lot
    downwind from the outhouse

    No fire

    Just some Dinty Moore stew
    that we shared
    luke warm, straight from the can

    The sex was amazing that night

    As was the hike the next morning
    stream wading
    caves with petroglyphs

    Our accidental discovery
    of Lower Scorpion campground

    We’ve returned
    on purpose
    every year since

    Funny to recall then
    but even better now
    since removing the sting

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