Writing Routines

Amanda Gorman’s Writing Routine: “To write I just needed a pen and a page.”

Amanda Gorman is an American poet and activist, and the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate. She has published several poetry books, including The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough (2015) and Call Us What We Carry (2021).

With a speech impediment I was always looking for ways to express myself. Dance classes became too expensive, and I used 99 Cents Store paint for my art, which got frustrating. To write I just needed a pen and a page.

A Young Poet’s Inspiration | The New York Times

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Growing up in Los Angeles, California with limited television access and a speech impediment, Amanda Gorman turned to reading and writing at a young age. Her mother, Joan Wicks, who was raising Gorman and her two siblings as a single parent teaching 6th-grade English, encouraged the budding poet to pursue her love of words.

“What contributed to my writing early on is how my mom encouraged it,” Gorman told The New York Times. “She kept the TV off because she wanted my siblings and I to be engaged and active. So we made forts, put on plays, musicals, and I wrote like crazy.”

In 8th-grade, Gorman discovered the works of Toni Morrison, particularly the author’s 1970 novel The Bluest Eye. It was in Morrison that Gorman began to find her identity and voice as a writer.

I’d been reading books without black heroines, which nearly stripped me of the ability to write in my own voice, blackness and all. Reading Morrison was almost like reteaching myself how to write unapologetically in a black and feminist aesthetic that was my own. After that I made a promise to myself: To never stop writing, and to always represent marginalized figures in my work.

A Young Poet’s Inspiration | The New York Times

In 2014, at the age of 16 years old, Gorman was chosen as the first youth poet laureate of Los Angeles. She published her first poetry book, The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough, the next year. A few years later in 2017, she became the first person to be named National Youth Poet Laureate.

For Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony in 2021, Gorman was recommended by Jill Biden to read her poem “The Hill We Climb,” becoming the youngest poet to read at a presidential inauguration in United States history.

Amanda Gorman’s daily writing routine

When Gorman was still in school, her daily writing routine was whenever she had a spare moment — like on the hour long bus commute each way. These days, as an established poet, she has a more set schedule, where she carves out time to write for at least 15 minutes a day, or about 300 words a day.

I wake up and spend at least half an hour reading a new collection or something that I think will be good to think about as I move to my own writing. As I’m reading and different ideas and questions come to my head, I’ll write them down in a notebook. Then when I move to the actual writing part of the day, I’ll look back at that notebook. The afternoon will be spent looking at what I just put down on paper and editing it and taking some things out. By the late afternoon, I’ll typically take a walk around my neighborhood and that gets me out of my head and out of the page. Those are the moments when the closing thoughts for a poem, the most core refrains in the poem, will become clear. So then I come back after my walk, maybe write for another half hour, and then it’s the end of the day.

Amanda Gorman Procrastinates, Too — She Just Does It Better | Bustle

During her writing sessions, Gorman likes to drink a lot of Pedialyte, because she tends to become so engrossed in her work that she gets “dehydrated and underfed.” She also likes to listen to a lot of film soundtracks — “it’s a lot of Hans Zimmer, Michael Giacchino — who you might know most from Disney and Pixar films — and Dario Marianelli.”

The poet laureate also makes time in her day to procrastinate, which she believes is a helpful creative process. “I think my writing tends to be stronger after that because I’m giving myself the time and the space to ideate and create,” she told Bustle. “When I procrastinate, it’s a lot of going on social media — I love a good meme, so Saint Hoax, for example — maybe binge-watching some show or spending time watching funny dog videos on YouTube.”

For the writing of her full-length poetry collection, Call Us What We Carry, which was done during the pandemic lockdown, Gorman found that it was a prolific time for working — she wrote most of the poems in the collection within a 3-4 month timespan — not because of the forced isolation, but rather because the global situation was weighing heavy on her mind and she had lots of say.

If anything, I found that as I was writing, I had more writer’s block, because I was bringing more grief and concerns and questions and baggage into the writing room. And so I wrote a lot. COVID just made writing feel all the more urgent for me, and all the more necessary. So, yeah, most of these poems are new and born out of the experience of the pandemic, but I think also just the larger racial reckoning that I think we’re having, not only in the United States but around the world—the sociopolitical crisis that we find ourselves in.

‘I Always Think of Poetry as Home for Me’ | The Atlantic

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