Ocean Metaphors to Help You Navigate Rough Seas

As summer rolls in, many of us have begun daydreaming of ocean scenes—vast blue waters, soft white sand, blazing sun rays, and a cool salty breeze immediately come to mind. If you’re a poet, you’re likely inspired to explore the wide-open seas in your writing since the ocean provides creative inspiration as endless as the sea. 

Although seascapes tend to conjure joyful emotions and bright mental pictures, why not take a different approach? If you’re struggling to navigate rough seas, consider wading through these ocean metaphors in your poetry. 


Lost at sea

If you’re feeling directionless in your life, and desperately searching for the right path, explore the somberness of your experience with a lost-at-sea metaphor. When you’re going through a sad time or suffering from depression, you can feel like you’re lost at sea, surrounded by a seemingly infinite ocean, with no destination in sight. 

As you write your poem, convey feelings of sorrow through detailed imagery and metaphor. The blue ocean could represent the many tears you’ve cried, your flailing limbs symbolic of struggling to emotionally stay afloat, fish nipping at your heels might be a metaphor for your inner strength telling you to keep going or people around you trying to help but actually worsening your circumstances. 


Shipwrecked on a deserted island

We’re all familiar with the classic “deserted island” game—if you can only bring a few items to a deserted island, what would you pack? You’ve probably considered this question, or imagined how you might survive on your own, which makes being shipwrecked on a deserted island the perfect metaphor for isolation.

Explore a time you’ve felt isolated or misunderstood, telling your story in this setting. List the few items in your pocket as you reach the shore—what helped you get through this lonely time? A pen and paper, for example? How does exploring the island parallel to discovering aspects of yourself during this isolated time of your life? When you’re rescued, in what ways have you grown? What island memories will you carry with you?


A sudden storm at sea

Throughout life, we find ourselves in periods of sudden, unexpected change. These times can drastically alter one’s path, like a storm at sea.

In a poem, explore this often painful experience by envisioning yourself on a boat when a sudden storm rolls in. You’re forced to navigate the tumultuous waves, at times you’re thrown from the comfort of your boat, or other metaphorical representations of chaotic moments of change. As you write, focus on creatively communicating your emotions. Convey feelings of frustration, anger, and worry, for example.


Sun on the horizon

Watching the sun approach or emerge from the ocean’s horizon serves as an optimistic metaphor—a day always ends, and a new one begins. 

If you’re seeking hope, in a poem, imagine you’re sitting on a beach, watching the sun slowly disappear in the evening as you reflect on the challenges in your life. As you write, remind yourself that this time will end, leaving room for a new day. 


Hopefully, these ocean metaphors encourage you to creatively process your emotions through poetry. For even more writing inspiration, check out our most recent poetry prompts.