“Poetry is like pooping” and other writing tips from a TED superstar


Three years ago, a young spoken word poet named Sarah Kay wowed the TED talk, earning two standing ovations. Her performance on writing poetry for entertainment and education has since received over 5 million views on the TED website.

Kay believes communication is about telling stories that people can learn from. She offers five suggestions for incorporating writing into your work and daily life:

1. Poetry is like pooping.

It’s the analogy Kay uses when people try to put poetry on a pedestal or are intimidated by the writing process.

“If there’s a poem inside of you, it has to come out,” she said. “I want people to think poetry is more human, less sacred.”

Kay says there is no right or wrong way to write, and there isn’t the time it should take. Writers need to worry less about how to write and focus only on wording, she says.

2. You are a poet or a writer if you say you are.

You don’t have to be paid to write to be a writer. “I know a lot of people who work nine to five in a cubicle and then come home to write for themselves,” Kay says. “Their words are often as powerful, moving and valid as anything I have written, if not more.”

Kay notes that in some cultures anyone can be considered a poet. It doesn’t make being a poet any less special, she says, but rather it makes being a poet more relevant.

She suggests taking the time to write – write a poem once a week and doodle once a day. “Create something that brings you joy,” Kay says.

3. Don’t be afraid of bad writing.

Kay encourages people to write down their thoughts and feelings regardless of whether the handwriting is perfect. She points out that improvements and refinements come later.

“You never sit down at the piano for the first time and expect great music to just come out of your fingers,” she says. “You would need practice and more practice. But a sure way to never play beautiful music is to never sit at the keyboard. “

His process begins with sitting down and writing, even if it’s bad. Then she looks at her handwriting and decides what makes it bad – she sees what isn’t working and finds the only line that does. Then she takes that line or that lesson and starts over.

“Sitting down to write is never a waste of time. It’s a process of learning, practicing and growing, ”says Kay.

4. Consider writing an act of celebration.

Kay believes that when we write something, we take the time to celebrate. “We hold everything we write in the light and say, ‘Wow, are you going to watch this? “”

She says viewing writing as an act of celebration is a helpful framework.

5. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.

Looking at a blank page or screen is often overwhelming, which is why Kay recommends building a backlog of writing ideas.

“When we look and listen to the world, there are things that surprise us, amaze us, upset us and disturb us,” she says. “When something enters your thoughts and feelings, jot down a one-word reminder or text yourself. Later, when you have time to write, these words can lead you to writing ideas. It’s like breadcrumbs directing you to inspiration.

It’s important to get out of your head once in a while. Kay suggests taking the time to picnic with old friends, listen to movie soundtracks, read authors you love and hate, talk with your grandmother, and visit museums and zoos to inspire you.

“The more we listen, observe and think,” says Kay, “the more we have in our inspiration toolbox – and the more we have in our toolbox, the more we can create.”

Sarah kay occurs in communities and classrooms around the world. She is the founder of Project VOICE, an organization that uses oral poetry to entertain, educate and encourage people to express themselves creatively. His second book of poetry, No matter the wreck, was released this month.


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