Using Western Haiku to be a Better Writer

Whenever I am feeling stuck, especially in writing serious poetry or short stories, I just write Western haiku just to get the juices flowing.

If you’re anything like me you’ll know keeping good writing habits is just about the hardest thing to do. Writing is a difficult career or even just a difficult pastime because often it feels like you just don’t know what to write about.

I struggle with this. I’ll spend hours just sitting in front of my notebook, clicking the pen 1,001 times without ever writing a thing. Or sit in front of my computer, staring at the mockingly blank document with my fingers at the ready, waiting for inspiration. It’s an amazing time sink.

While there are countless articles and suggestions out there on how to break that type of writer’s block, the one I have found to be the most successful by a long shot is writing haiku. Taking after the Jack Kerouac tradition, I constantly write little, three-line poems. Kerouac redefined his Western Haiku as “…the ‘Western Haiku’ simply say a lot in three short lines”. He wrote thousands of these in his lifetime in little journals, on napkins, anywhere he could scribble them. 

Writing less to write more

Whenever I am feeling stuck, especially in writing serious poetry or short stories, I just write Western haiku just to get the juices flowing. It helps take back the agency of being a writer. What better way to break writer’s block than to actually write? The short nature of the poem and the simple observations make it almost impossible to be blocked. For example, 

there’s dust in my
keyboard. I need
to write more.

These types of poems take 10 seconds to write and they feel good to create. They’re the simplest form of creative writing. It works out the same muscles as any other creative writing endeavor. That’s why it is such an effective method. Even on your worst days where nothing you wanted to write actually gets written, at the very least you’ll have yourself a small collection of haiku or just tear them up as you go along. Either way you’ll have gained something by simply creating.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still days where I’ll set out to write a short story and get 0% closer to my ultimate goal. I won’t even get one word on that draft, but I’ll have composed 10 or so haiku and that is satisfying to me. I never have a day of writing that feels useless anymore. I’m often surprised at the amount of ideas I generate in the haiku writing process. They often find their ways into my short fiction or larger poems as well. 

Additional Benefits of The Haiku

Writing haiku to break writer’s block isn’t the only way haiku can improve your writing. If you start to look for inspiration for these little poems you’ll become more observant, witty, and inspired. I write them in my notebook wherever I go and I’m constantly gratified at the simple joy of creating. Even if you take Vonnegut’s advice and decide to rip them up into tiny little pieces, you’ll have grown your soul just a little bit more!

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5 responses to “Using Western Haiku to be a Better Writer”

  1. I have been the beneficiary of your many haikus…but love your poems and short stories as well. Keep it up.

  2. […] and are flexible. Their short structure also allows for easy creation which is helpful if you ever experience writer’s block. Choose to stick to the more traditional 5,7,5 structure, or attempt to say a lot in a little […]

  3. […] published nearly 30 books of poetry and was able to achieve so much with one of the most relaxed writing routines I’ve ever heard […]

  4. […] the traditional haiku. The abbreviated haiku follows the 3-5-3 syllable structure as opposed to the classic 5-7-5. This form takes the already short form and shrinks it even further. Eleven syllables is not a lot […]

  5. […] is celebrated for its ability to distill profound moments into just a few lines. Within the rich tapestry of traditional haiku, familiar characters often emerge. Dragonflies, […]

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Sam and Corey started Poetry is Pretentious to demystify poetry. More importantly, their 5th grade teacher told them they couldn’t go through life as a team. 18 years later they’re here to prove her wrong.


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