Creative Limitation Challenge


Bruce Lee once said regarding the martial arts: “It is not daily increase but daily decrease; hack away the unessential.”  While he was referring to eliminating unnecessary moves to your martial arsenal, the same principle can be applied to writing in all genres–especially poetry.  A teacher once told me “a poem is like a diamond, a perfect crystallized expression of emotion.”  That though always stuck with me, but boy is it hard to turn out a gem!  I always become verbose: in my struggle to pick the right word for each line, I include excess.

One thing that helps me are little exercises in creative limitation.  I borrow them from other writers, but I often make up my own.  Here’s one.  Go to a website regarding a topic that interests you.  It could be about sports, gardening, seaweed–doesn’t matter.  Look at the essential message of the page, and make up some rules to follow while writing a poem.  Then, write a piece that follows those rules.

Many people are turned off by the strict adherence to rhyme or meter that classical forms require.  For this exercise, you get to make up your own form, but, at the same time, the rules you decide limit your creative choices.  This way, you can write something nice and tight without feeling too constrained.

Why not give it a shot?  I picked a website about meditation (Meditation Is Easy).  Not sure why–it just sounded cool.  I knew that the chanting of “OM” is used in Hindu meditation, and I read here that multiples of seven have some significance.  With that, I made up my rules:

1.) Write seven lines

2.) of seven syllables each,

3.) with each line starting with the “OM” sound.


Here’s the result.  It may not be the best poem, but it was fun to write.


The Sound of Universe

Oh, my meditation will

grow my mind’s design making

so many panics broken

poems in the garden now my

home, a respite for storing

tomes–words scrawled about God, vol-

umes unread when just sitting.


Feedback’s cool.  So are your submissions for the exercise.  Try it out, explain your rules, and share your poem.  Post results in the comments, and have fun!

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