(This article was written for Read Write Poem.)
I love the change that comes with a new year. All of my annual failures and misfires are wiped clean. I’m given another chance to get it right, starting in January (so appropriate, don't you think?). So the end of the year becomes a time of reflection and evaluation: how far have I gotten on my 2008 poetry goals, and how will the next 365 days be different from the last?
2009 promises to be a year full of chaos and uncertainty. What you create for your poetry goals will be the thing you hold on to when you’re not sure if you’re a real writer. Or when the rejections flood your mailbox. Or when you just can’t find the time to write. Make your time count with a clear, concise list of goals to lead you through those times of doubt.
In 2008, I created what I call a Poetry Action Plan, or PAP for short. The word “resolution" just doesn’t speak to a life change, which is what makes an action plan successful. For a change you can believe in, you must find a way to incorporate your writing goals into your day-to-day existence. Poets take pleasure in the act of doing, so your goals should inspire your creativity and spark your curiosity.
Here are some suggestions for creating a PAP. Use them as a starting point, and modify as you see fit throughout the year.
- First, it’s important to define your goals. What is most important to you as a writer? Is it practicing your craft? Do you want to read your work in public? Is this the year you finally complete your manuscript? Whatever it is, name it, claim it, and put it at the top of your list.
- Next, be realistic about what can you achieve. In previous years, I’ve put too much emphasis on making multiple changes at once. What I’ve come to realize is that my writing suffers when I don’t have a focus. So pick four or five goals and stick to them.
- Keep track of your progress. It’s one thing to make goals, and another to keep them. List items you can quantify so you can gain momentum as you reach your next goal (ex. submit to 25 journals, write two poems a month, etc.).
- Don’t get discouraged. In 2009, something will derail you: writer’s block, rejection, or bad timing. Be open. Look for opportunities wherever they appear. A few stolen moments riding the subway may lead to a new poem. A Saturday night with seemingly nothing to do could be an opportunity for an informal writing session with a friend. Small acts such as these can get you to your goals sooner than you think.
For the record, here’s my PAP for 2009:
- Develop a Marketing Plan for Underlife. What does this involve, you ask? Getting to know the poets and poetry lovers in my region. Publishing in as many journals before the book is released in October. Updating my mailing list with current reviewers. Deciding which conferences to attend in 2009 and 2010. And, lining up as many poetry readings at bookstores and college campuses as possible.
- Write a poem a week. No matter what, I have to practice my craft. Again, I like having a quantifiable number (in this case, 52 poems) that I can point to and say, “I did this. I wrote more than 50 poems.” I did not make my goal in 2008, but I have nearly 50 poems to revise in the New Year. Not bad, if I do say so myself!
- Complete a second manuscript. I've put this one off because it involves research. But I’d like to complete a new section of poems for the manuscript by year’s end.
- Write an article for a top-tier magazine. I’d like to have something published in O, The Oprah Magazine. There, I said it.
Spelling out my goals gives me power over my fears. And I fear success more than failure.
I wish you health, happiness, and great success in your poetry goals in 2009. Please share your goals here or at RWP. What are your creative endeavors for the New Year? What holds you back? And how do you push through those times of uncertainty to achieve them?