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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kenyon chapter.

After all, Kenyon College is known for being “The Writers’ College”…

I hate journaling. There. I said it. I think that it’s too time-consuming and I can’t make my notebook look like those bullet journaling videos on TikTok for the life of me. I’m inconsistent at best and totally neglectful at worst, so even though I know writing down my thoughts and feelings is what can ultimately quiet my racing mind, I just can’t bring myself to do it.

I have, however, found a solution that works for my all-over-the-place brain: poetry.

Say what you will about the people who read and/or write poetry (I’m calling myself out here) but it’s cathartic—and the best part about it is that it doesn’t even have to be good. In fact, I sincerely hope that it’s terrible. Now, I know that sounds malicious but let me explain…

When my poetry is a burning pile of garbage, I know that it shouldn’t see the light of day. The pressure to write well or market my skill is entirely absent, yet I am able to feel the catharsis of being vulnerable through writing. By combatting my own perfectionism (as explored through my article “Giving Yourself Grace”), I am able to take a step back and say “Yes, this poem may stink to high heaven but now my feelings are out of my mind and on the page”. It feels good.

Even blackout poetry (where you pick and choose words that have already been written) counts as writing poetry in my book. If you’re not quite ready to pick up a pencil and pour your grievances with the world onto paper, this might be a good option for you. Plus (and bookish people, don’t come for me!) it can feel good to mess up books. It’s destruction in its safest and healthiest form.

Sometimes, it can be hard to separate work like this from polished writing, but I think it’s important to stress the value of a work-life balance. If you consider yourself a writer, taking the initiative to draw a line between the writing you do for your schoolwork/career and the writing you do for yourself can be difficult, but ultimately necessary.

Looking at writing poetry from a purely personal and diary perspective may not be your most polished work and that’s okay. Actually, it’s more than okay. It shows that you’re human. Going into writing with the mindset of it possibly not being your best work stylistically will allow you to better focus on you.

However, if you become the next poet laureate from your “shoddy” poetry, I expect to see my name in the acknowledgments of a poetry collection of yours. (I’m only joking, of course!)

Even things that might seem the most trivial, like your daily routine or thoughts on a particular class, are still great things to write down. You are not only getting a release from your daily emotions/thoughts but are also using the creative part of your brain that needs some TLC every once and a while.

Sitting down and starting the writing process may seem daunting at first, especially if you are starting with a blank notebook. My recommendation is to make the notepad your own. Decorate it with magazine clippings, tape, or polaroids—anything to make the exterior and interior a little less intimidating. I am in the habit of decorating my notebooks with stickers as I believe it helps me to stop staring at a blank page and view it as my enemy, rather, a place for me to do some self-reflection and promote personal growth.

If you are using a computer or other electronic device and want to spruce up your digital pages, there are templates online that include cute graphics that can give your document a more encouraging feel. If I don’t have access to a physical piece of paper or simply wish to write digitally, I find Notability a great tool for me to write and customize my writing space. There are dozens of apps that allow their users to change the appearance of their screen, but I highly recommend doing so with whatever application or piece of tech you use.

Surely, after all is said and done, you should go back and read your work, right? Well, yes and no. I would say something that has helped me is to shut the notebook and put away my pen. When writing, I feel that I am my most vulnerable after a burst of creativity, which is something I think should be protected. I must stress that closing the cover of your notebook should not equal the suppression of your thoughts and feelings. If you feel that putting down your work and leaving it be for a little while is an act of repression, write a few more lines or however many it takes for you to feel comfortable putting your writing utensil down and walking away for the time being. Continuing to write shoddy poetry over time is very much encouraged. As the saying goes, “practice makes progress,” and what is progress in emotional growth if not the continuation of self-work?

Later on, meaning after a few months, you might feel the itch to pry open the notebook and read your work. That is perfectly normal. I would even go so far as to prompt you to take a look. Chances are, things in your life have changed, especially once you hit the six-month mark of time lapsed since you wrote an entry.

You might look back at your entries and cringe or laugh; this is a good thing and nothing to be ashamed of in the slightest. Times change and so will you. It’s better to go with the flow and have a little chuckle than to still be stewing over an issue from long ago.


in its simplest form,

is catharsis—

no matter how terrible

it may be.

If I can pull some shoddy poetry from nowhere such as the lines above, so can you.

Go forth and fill a journal up with the most poorly crafted verses known to man. Something tells me that Emily Dickinson won’t be rolling in her grave over a few lines.

Carlin Steere is a writer and poet at Kenyon College. When she's not on campus, she can be found on the beaches of Connecticut with a notebook in hand.