Poetry, Social Media and the Pace of the Writing Life

July 21, 2013 — Leave a comment

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“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Is it my imagination or is the pace of the poetry world increasing at an exponential rate? If I take the above quote from Alice in Wonderland and replace “go” with “publish,” that about sums up writing for me. I attribute much of this to the internet and social media. Through Twitter, I hear of 10 to 25 new (to me) literary journals a week—more than I have time to research. My writing pace hasn’t increased, and I’m not sure that my acceptance rate has, either, but the submittable.com system makes it easy to send out as many simultaneous submissions as I have time to upload. It is easy to feel that I am falling behind (particularly with other poets posting acceptances on Facebook and Twitter), or falling into a trap of thinking that I can capture all that is going on in the poetry world by spending hours online. My current strategy is to view the internet as a river. I can dip into it when I need to, and it will always be there as a resource. Writing and publishing are not the same process, and the internet doesn’t need to be conquered.

To maintain a sense of balance, I write in a notebook every day, and it evolves into what it evolves into. It’s a way of staying focused and offline.

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Here are my journals from last year. These are not poems but sketches, notes, lists, musings and more. If you’ve ever done Morning Pages from Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way, the journals are a version of that, though closer to an art or nature journal. I resisted the idea of a formal schedule for years, but I’ve finally accepted that it is the only way I can meet all of my goals without frittering away my time. To keep myself honest, I record my progress for the day on a desk pad calendar—whether I completed the journal, drafted, edited, or submitted poems (and where). Not all jobs have to be done each day, except for the free write/journal. I experimented with pulling jobs out of a jar for a time, but I tend to fall into blocks or patterns—editing for three days, drafting for a week, submitting for two days, etc. I have several books I’m reading to help with establishing a schedule, and I’ll review those as I find good points to share. I’ve heard of writers dividing a day into two blocks marked by a noon walk, with the morning dedicated to writing and the afternoon dedicated to other projects. Artists’ retreats such as the Vermont Studio Center or the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts seem promising as a way to focus on work and build community without distractions.

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