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Warning! Clichés Ahead.

It is Friday! Congratulations! I don’t know where you are, but from where I sit, it is snowing. That’s right. Snowing! It is snowing snowing snowing! I find the snow wonderfully appealing as it falls softly to the ground (notice how snow never falls loudly), and that brings me to today’s lesson in writing poetry: avoiding clichés.

What’s a cliché? It’s a phrase that you hear often, and over time, has become overused, and for the most part, loses its effectiveness.

The snow falls softly to the ground. So quiet you could hear a pin drop. Tired as a dog. Happy as a clam. These are clichés – we’ve all heard them before, and we all know what they mean. Sure, they get the message across – the snow was soft and pretty, it was quiet, he was tired, she was happy – but because these are so overused, it makes your poem, well…less interesting.

So, when writing poetry, do your best to avoid clichés. Avoid using the same metaphors that you hear all the time. Your job as a poet is to find new and interesting ways to describe things. I know, it seems hard! But I think you’re up for the challenge.

So, when you want to write something like “heart pounded like a hammer” or “feet heavy as lead”, think of something different.

Ask yourself, what else could a heart pound like? Music pounds. Maybe your heart pounds like a good rock song during the crescendo. Or maybe, your heart just pounds. Sometimes, keeping your descriptions simple is the best way to go. Don’t bog down your beautiful words with a bunch of metaphors.

Also, be aware that when you’re avoiding clichés to make sure that you’re not using examples that don’t make sense.

For example, when I was writing a poem in class last year, I wrote something like this:

Heart shattered into pieces,

I held my heart, still beating, in my hands.

Sounds poetic, doesn’t it? At least, I thought so. But first, heart shattered into pieces…sounds like a cliché to me. Secondly, I held my heart – that was shattered – and it was still beating? What?

I was confusing my descriptions. By all means, a heart can shatter. We all know what that means. But if a heart is shattered, it doesn’t make sense to continue describing it as if it were flesh...which can’t shatter. I took a metaphorical heart and then tried to make real again, which is confusing. If a heart is shattered like glass, it cannot also be a warm piece of flesh beating in somebody’s hands! (That does sound really gross).

When you endeavor to use fewer clichés, make sure your examples still make sense! My poetry Professor, during a workshop, told her that the image turned her off and didn’t make sense. Having a heart that’s broken but still beating? Shattered in pieces yet still a living flesh? That’s more confusing and disturbing. So, be creative. But make sure your creativity isn’t confusing. Remember yesterday’s advice? Keep your poem grounded? If you are using a non-traditional description, as you should, make sure that you are keeping your reader grounded.

That is all I have to share with you today! Avoid clichés. Be original – but make sense. People want to hear your lovely words; don’t depend on overused phrases to get your story across. You have much more talent than that, dear one.

You are wonderful, dear one, and deeply, and utterly loved.

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