I was first introduced to spoken-word by a senior during my junior year during creative writing club. I fell in love with it, so I looked up any spoken-word pieces on youtube. One of the first people I have ever listened to was Sarah Kay. She’s been one of my favorite poets til this day. I know a lot of people out there aren’t familiar with spoken-word, so I thought I’d write out 11 steps on how to write one.
1. Brainstorm About Something You’re Passionate About (& List Them)
Think of topics that you know about really well such as feminism, stuff about the modern world, technology, or make it personal—your pet peeves, things you love, your life story, a letter to your younger self, etc. If you think of a word, you can work around that word to create it. For example, I have written about mental illness (anxiety and depression mostly), but I have been successful with it. The same advice goes for articles, but it’s in a more poetic, free form style.
2. Pick Your Top Three Favorites
Your first three could be (and in no particular order) An Ode To Autumn, A Letter To My Frenemy, or An Ode To Pokémon. You can write all three and see which one you can talk about a lot. Usually, the one you know about a lot and can write about for a long time without having a brain fart is a sign that the piece is going to succeed.
3. Write, Write and Write
Before writing into the spoken-word form, I would write everything you love, know, agree and disagree with that certain topic. Write everything in a journal, of connecting thoughts. With thoughts, it’s like a tree, because one branch leads to smaller ones, which stems into leaves, and so on. For example, for an ode to autumn, I would write about how I love the colors of leaves, wearing beanies, bonfires, and the best part: no mosquitos. Plus, you have an excuse to wear hoodies and cuddle up in a blanket.
4. Pick The Topic
Let’s just say I chose to do the ode to autumn. It was my best choice, so I stick to that decision. If you end up writing a lot, and you realize that you don’t like your topic, then you can change it. All the writing is in your hands, as the writer.
5. Write Your First Draft
I’d take snipbits from the journal I wrote and rephrase it in the beginning. I can start with “I just LOVE autumn. The beanies, the ever so changing color of leaves, and chilly weather (oh my). I don’t think we’re in summer anymore.” Even if you think it’s terrible, it’s your first draft of it, and you can always revise it.
6. Read It Out Loud
I think of a spoken-word as a rant sometimes. When you read your piece out loud, you should hear the mistakes or the parts where it doesn’t flow and it sounds weird. You (sometimes) get ideas when you finally read it to yourself and when that happens, a light goes off in your head and you get ideas.
7. Edit, Peer Edit, and Edit
For the first spoken-word I wrote, I had at least 3 to 5 different drafts because I was either unhappy with it, or I found new ways to make it flow a lot better. Have your teachers, friends, and family look at it and ask them what they think. A second set of eyes could help a lot.
8. Research Different Styles Of Spoken Word
There’s a ton of authors that are spoken-word poets: Watsky, Kevin Coval, Sarah Kay, Phil Kaye, Guante, and so much more. Different artists and different styles could inspire your next line or even the title of your piece. There’s also two to three youtube channels that I recommend: Button Poetry, Brave New Voices, and Youth Speaks.
9. Develop Your Style
Choose how you want to present this poem that has a subject your passionate about to the audience. That’s the way you could solidify your confidence when you perform it (if you ever do, spoken-word is meant to be performed) This is what I mean by ‘style’.
10. Finalize Everything
Read your piece out loud again, make sure everything flows, and most importantly, you’re happy with it. Perform it for a teacher or a friend. Let them know you want them to tell you what you could improve on anything from the performance to the poem itself.
11. Have Fun and Perform
After you’ve finalized everything, and you know how you want to perform it, have fun with it. You’ve finished everything for the piece and you can still edit it here and there if you end up being unhappy with it again. Spoken-word is really fun and it’s a chance to put your voice out there about something your passionate about.
I haven’t written a spoken-word piece in a while, but it’s because I haven’t found any inspiration, and I do have school work. But when I do think of things to write about, it’s usually at night because of late night thoughts, shower thoughts, and car thoughts. But all in all, I love spoken-word poetry and I think everyone should learn how to write at least one.