Writing Is Like... Explore the Writing Process with Extended Metaphor Poems

Writing is a process. Perfect stories, essays, and poems do not magically spill on the page the moment a writer picks up a pen or poises fingers over a keyboard. Writing takes patience, practice, and time. And every writer’s process is different. 

I try to help students become more aware of the writing process. One great way to do this is by introducing the concept of extended metaphor, or a comparison of two things that develops over several lines, paragraphs, or stanzas. Using extended metaphor helps writers convey a complex idea, like the writing process, in simpler, more compelling ways. 

To better embrace their own writing process, I have students compose “Writing Is Like…” extended metaphor poems.    

First, we look at how other writers have tackled this topic. Two wonderful mentor texts that use extended metaphor and poetry to explore the writing process are Brainstorm, by Rebecca Gardyn Levington (illustrated by Kate Kronrief) and A Poem Grows Inside You, by Katey Howes (illustrated by Heather Brockman Lee.) A Poem Grows Inside You is a recipient of the 2023 Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor Award.
In Brainstorm, writing is compared to a stormy day. The day, and the writer’s brain, begin cloudy and gray. With each page turn, ideas trickle, then drizzle, then drench. Pretty soon “nouns swirl 'round” and “gusts of adjectives blow by.” The writer embraces the storm of ideas and begins to write with a clear mind. 

In A Poem Grows Inside Me, writing a poem is compared to a growing a plant. At first, the poem is a dormant seed, but soon “slim roots wriggle out” and ideas sprouts in “soil rich with memory, simile, song.” What I love about A Poem Grows Inside Me is that Katey Howes acknowledges the fear and doubt that often accompany the writing process: “If you let this sprout out in the sun that it needs, will the world call it ugly? A nuisance? A weed?”

After reading these mentor texts with students, we look more closely at the words each author chooses to create the metaphor. In Brainstorm we notice weather words and phrases woven throughout, like spill, sky, grumble-rumble, and flood. In A Poem Grows Inside Me, we notice gardening and plant-growing words like seedling, light, branch out, and bloom. 

Now it’s time to come up with our own extended metaphors for the writing process. First, we brainstorm a list of activities that require a process. Students always have fun creating this list. I've had students  come up with everything from riding a roller coaster to baking a cake to grooming a dog. Then we brainstorm various steps in the writing process, including generating ideas, writing a draft, writers block and uncertainty, getting feedback, revising, editing, and publishing/sharing. 

 Next, I write these questions on the board: 
  • What words do people use to describe this activity? 
  • How does the activity begin? 
  • What are the steps? 
  • How is the activity finished? 
  • How does each step compare to a part of the writing process?

I model my own response
to the questions. I compare my writing process to throwing clay on a potter’s wheel. I compose a list of pottery-related words like clay, wheel, shape, mold, chisel, glaze, and kiln. Then I explain how this activity begins: I start with a shapeless lump of clay, similar to a blank piece of paper. Then I explain the rest of the steps in creating pottery, asking students to help me decide how each step is like a step in the writing process. 

Then I share my own “Writing is Like…” poem, created from these ideas: 

Writing is Like Throwing on a Potter’s Wheel 

I am potter 
harnessing a whirlwind of thoughts. 
I lump shapeless ideas 
onto my wheel. 
Words spin and slide 
beneath my fingers, 
wobbly at first, 
until I center my thoughts, 
mold them into a satisfying form. 
Next, I chisel and carve 
precise details, 
add a colorful glaze 
of imagery, 
and send my draft
to the editor’s kiln: 
the final polish 
on my poetry vase.

-Michelle Schaub 2022

Students choose an activity they enjoy and follow this process to create their own “Writing is Like” poems. 

 Here is an example poem created by one of my students: 

Writing is Like Riding a Rollercoaster

Can you survive? 
Ideas race through your head 
as the cart climbs, rising like a jumble of words. 
You tip over the top, 
can’t see your way. 
Then the track appears beneath you. 
You fly downhill, 
words dashing across the page. 
But, oh no, another hill, 
and then... 
writers block throws you for a loop. 
You’re upside down, 
all your words topsy-turvy,
but you eye the horizon, 
find a focus, 
and steady your dizzy brain. 
Now you climb the hills 
with excitement. 
You write the final words 
 as the coaster slows to a stop.
 You look back and think 
You had no idea you would be able to do this, 
 but you’re so glad you did. 

 -Elise, 7th Grade 

Try creating “Writing Is…”  poems with your students. Not only will students become more aware of the writing process, they'll also learn about extended metaphors. It's an educational double-header! (Hmm, how is writing like playing baseball???)

For more extended metaphor fun, check on this post on writing "KINDNESS IS" poems. 

Enjoy the ride! 

Montage image showing a headshot of children's author and poet Michelle Schaub and four covers of her picture books Dream Big Little Scientists, Fresh-Picked Poetry A Day at the Farmers Market, Finding Treasure A Collection of Collections, and Kindness is a Kite String

About Michelle Schaub

Michelle Schaub is a language arts teacher and award-winning children's poet. She is the author of the picture book poetry collections Fresh-Picked Poetry: A Day at the Farmers’ Market and Finding Treasure: A Collection of Collections. She is also the author of two picture books in verse, Dream Big, Little Scientists and Kindness is a Kite String: The Uplifting Power of Empathy. Her poems appear in several anthologies, including  Great Morning! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud.  Michelle loves visiting schools and speaking at conferences on the power of poetry to boost literacy. Find out more at:  https://www.michelleschaub.com/


  1. Great post! Love the concept of using poetry to teach the writing process. Thanks, Michelle!

  2. Fun! I almost wish I were still teaching!


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